As we age, we lose strength. According a MSPT and manager of the Physical Therapy Department at The Memorial Hospital, we start losing muscle strength starting at age 25. Yet he’s quick to add that we can combat this natural breakdown of muscle by staying active—and even get stronger as we age—with regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle.
Regular exercise and specific exercises provided by physical therapists can help combat many common ailments we see as we age—lower back pain, loss of balance, falls, limited mobility and osteoporosis. A key is resistance training
Resistance Training for Stronger Muscles, Bones
“There is leading research that as we age we gain great benefits from resistance training, along with stretching and cardiovascular exercises,” the MSPT said.
What is resistance training? Using your own body as a weight or using lighter weights while you exercise. It can be as basic as standard push-ups, sit-ups and wall squats or as fancy as Pilates or Yoga.
“If you don’t have hand weights, I even say canned goods in your pantry provide good resistance, but Pilates is a great choice for an aging population because you use your body weight as resistance to perform a variety of exercises,” the MSPT said.
Osteoporosis, or a decrease in bone mass, is common as we age. Weight-bearing exercises help limit the demineralization of our bones and subsequent risk of breaking that’s associated with osteoporosis.
“Bearing weight through our long bones helps ward off the effects of osteoporosis, according to extensive research,” Johnson said.
Strengthen Core Muscles to Avoid Lower Back Pain, Falls
“Lower back pain is also a common complaint as people age. It’s associated with imbalance in flexibility and strength, and also weak core muscles,” the MSPT said.
When deciding on an exercise plan, choose activities that focus on your core muscles. You may think your core is just your abdominal muscles, but it includes much more. Draw a line around your lower midsection—these are your core muscles and they include your abdomen, hip, back, and pelvic floor muscles, and even some that attach to your shoulders and legs. Together, they make up your pillar of strength—your core—which is responsible for stabilizing your body and creating good posture, balance and flexibility.
Ideal Exercise Plan as We Age
To stay strong as you age, the MSPT recommends the following exercise plan:
Stretching daily—even just 5 to 10 minutes helps to maintain flexibility.
Weight-bearing resistance training 3 to 4 times a week—use hand weights or do resistance exercises at home, or join an exercise class.
Cardiovascular exercise 3 to 4 times a week—a brisk walk is one of the best cardiovascular exercises and it’s easy to do.
If you need guidance or have pain associated with aging, ask your doctor if you could benefit from physical therapy. TMH offers a well-rounded physical therapy team, with most therapists holding a doctor of physical therapy (D.P.T.) or a master’s of physical therapy.