By Dr. Nora DeVoe, Ph.D.
Geriatric Care Manager


Reap the Benefits of Resistance Training

A Losing muscle mass is a part of aging, with most people losing around 30% of their muscle strength by about age 70. But such a dramatic loss is not inevitable. Muscular atrophy is one of the body's age related changes that can be slowed or at least minimized over time. That is crucial to preserving mobility and independence in your later years.

Regular strength or resistance training can increase muscle strength and reduce muscular atrophy. It can also boost your bone density because it places your bones under stress that stimulates bone remodeling, a process by which old bone is replaced by new bone. Studies also point to the benefits of resistance training when it comes to cardiovascular health. Less than one hour of resistance exercise training per week was found to lower the risk for metabolic syndrome: a constellation of cardiovascular risk factors including high blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. Nearly 50% of adults 60 and older have metabolic syndrome, and still more have risk factors that predispose them to it.

Resistance training is recommended three times a week with a day or two in between workouts to allow your muscles to recover. But even if you engage in resistance training just once a week, you will still see benefits while you build your strength gradually. Basic resistance training requires weights; Two to three pound dumbbells are ideal, but even cans of soup are fine. Another option is resistance bands, which come in a variety of designs. Aim to do two to three sets of eight to ten repetitions. If that is too difficult, try a lighter weight (or bands with less resistance), or do two sets of six to eight repetitions.

Your final few reps of any exercise should make you feel your muscles are working hard. But if you feel pain, stop. You do not want to strain your joints, muscles, and tendons to the point of injury, which can set back any progress you have made by forcing you to suspend training.

If you feel sharp pain during any exercise, stop immediately. If the pain persists after icing and resting the affected muscles or joints, seek medical attention. Be sure to talk with your doctor before starting any resistance training program to cover issues such as physical limitations, how medications may affect your exercise ability, and alternative exercises if your physical condition does not allow for certain exercises.

Your cardiovascular, bone, and muscle health will thank you for your efforts by benefiting your overall wellness and quality of life and longevity.

Back to After 50 Home Page
Nora DeVoe is a Gerontologist specializing in Eldercare and Caregiver issues. She may be reached at (716) 667-7299.  

Dr. Nora is a ....