The older we get, the more important strength training becomes.
The benefits of exercise are widely known and most people are aware of how much they should be doing vs how much they are actually doing. Physiotherapists have been encouraging strengthening for a long time, and it should make up a large part of any rehabilitation programme you undertake
But even in people doing regular exercise, problems can still occur. Joint injuries and pain, lower back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain and more. So how can you reduce your chance of developing these issues?
The answer is with strength training. The evidence supporting strength training is overwhelming, and the NHS recommends that the older we get, the more strength training we should be doing. In fact, the NHS website advises that persons over the age of 65 should be doing a minimum of two strength based exercise sessions every week. But why?
We naturally lose bone density and strength as we get older. This process actually starts in most people around the age of 30, and progresses at a decline of about 1% every year after this. This means by the time we are reaching out 50’s, we have lost 20% of our strength. This is a large number that will result in your spine, joints and skeletal muscles losing support and protection. This can lead to increased rates of falls, osteoarthritis, pain and eventually declining mobility and loss of independence.
Strength training is proven to combat against this decline. It helps to improve muscle strength and density, and in turn can help improve bone density. People with osteoporosis should for this reason be incorporating strength training in their weekly routines, but we should all be making time in our schedules to help reduce our chance of injury and pain. If the muscles protecting our joints lose too much strength, this is often when we will start to develop joint pain neck pain, shoulder or lower back pain or indeed pain anywhere in the body.
Strength training (provided it is done at the correct level) has very few contraindications (medical based reasons not to do it as a form of exercise). The main reasons not to do strength training are recent cardiac arrest, or uncontrolled or excessive hypertension or angina. Provided you are managed in a safe way, there are not many health issues that will not benefit from strength training. Liaise with your physiotherapist and Doctor before starting a programme if you have concerns.
Strength training involves moving your muscles against resistance for a minimum of 8-12 repetitions to the point that the last few reps feel difficult. This needs to be done for at least one full set, but can be made more difficult by adding sets. The best strength exercises are the ones that encompass as many muscle groups as possible all at once. Press-ups, deadlifts, squats, rows do all of this. You
should ask your physiotherapist for the exercises that would be most appropriate to start making these changes. They should give you variety and keep you interested as well as giving you maximum return in the benefit they give you for the time spent doing them. It is a good idea to join a class if you feel you are not motivated to do the exercises in your own time, or get your physiotherapist to give you some home exercises. Azzurro Physiotherapy hold classes and do small group and 1 to 1 sessions in our private studio designed specifically to build strength and improve general health and wellbeing.
If you want to stay doing teh activities you enjoy- running, walking, golf, playing with grandchildren, then it's time to incorporate some strength training into you regime. Speak to your Physiotherapist about where to start if you are not sure!
More information can be found on the NHS website: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/physical-activity-guidelines-older-adults/