Pumping Iron After 60
The senior population in Cincinnati needs strength training more than any other group of people. When we are young, I see vanity being a primary driving force for exercising, but as people hit 50 and beyond, I often see the driving force being a better quality of life. As senior citizens, weight training is critical to maintaining strength and the independence that accompanies it.
It is heart breaking to see the parents that have given so much, start to decline physically and/or mentally. Often your parents are living in a home that they have been in for years and it holds a lifetime of memories. The threat of losing their ability to take care of themselves and being forced to leave their home can be a crushing blow to their overall well-being. As a physical therapist assistant, I have plenty of experience in nursing homes and have seen the devastating affects first hand, as a person loses independence simply because they became too weak to take care of themselves in their own home.
The aches and pains of aging, combined with the loss of physical ability to do the things they used to do often sends the elderly into a tailspin of depression and a loss for the desire to live. Being strong can fight off both the aches and pains, and the loss of functional ability. I have repeatedly mentioned in my column that strength training is the only true fountain of youth and this especially holds true with the aging population.
Painful joints can lead to a viscous cycle of becoming weak and debilitated. A person’s joint hurt so they become less active to avoid the pain. When you are less active, you use your muscle less and they start to waste away. Because part of the natural aging process is a loss of muscle mass, decreased activity greatly accelerates the loss of muscle in the elderly. The best way to avoid painful joints is to strengthen the muscle that surrounds them. When the muscles around a joint are weak, it places all the stress directly on the joint, which aggravates them. This is especially true with arthritic joints. Our muscles are designed to support the joint but they need strength to do so.
Carol Kormelink, came to Sensible Fitness, a 70 year old with a goal of getting up off the floor independently. She reached her goal in a very short time, and now at 75+ years young, is still popping up off the floor by herself. In addition to general strengthening, we also work on her balance a great deal to avoid falls. She lives alone in the home that she raised her children in, and is maintaining her strength to stay there.
A properly established strength training program is very safe for older people and offers many more benefits than just strong muscles, as it is mentally uplifting. It gets mom and dad out of the house and into a healthy social situation of a fitness center where new friendship are created and this is great stimulation. As their strength starts increasing and they are able to do activities that were recently lost, they get a more positive outlook on life and feel like they have more to contribute which give them a sense of being needed. Nothing makes a parent feel better than to be needed and able to contribute, vs. feeling like they are being a burden.