There is a natural decline in our muscular and bone strength as we age. Starting as early as 30-40, we lose approximately 5-10% of our muscle mass and 3-11% of our bone mass each decade. This rate starts to increase after the age of 65, especially if we are significantly inactive. In addition, most people tend to become less physically active as they get older, and as a result, they become weaker and are more likely to see a significant decline in muscle and bone mass. A great way to improve muscle and bone strength is to participate in regular physical activity. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 3-5 days of moderate/vigorous aerobic intensity and 2 days of both resistance training and flexibility per week.
When considering what type of physical activity to do, variety is the key!. Aerobics, balance exercises, strength and flexibility training are all great activities, each providing our bodies with a slightly different benefit. Low impact aerobics such as walking or dancing can help improve heart and lung strength, while balance exercises are beneficial to strengthen our proprioception and help prevent falls. Strength training, also known as resistance training, means building muscle by working against resistance (this can come from body weight, free weights, weight machines, bands, water bottles, etc.) to help increase muscular strength. Of similar benefit, the virtual SMART™ exercise program offered by Community Support Connections incorporates functional movements as well as aerobics, balance, strength training and flexibility. Functional movements are moves that we do as part of our activities of daily living that can aid us in performing day-to-day tasks such as cleaning, getting dressed and cooking. Lastly, flexibility training assists with pain management and counteracts muscle and joint stiffness.
Participating in regular physical activity can increase our overall health and decrease our risk of a fall. It can also reduce the likelihood of a severe injury by 50% in the event that a fall does take place. Performing weight-bearing exercises such as walking, stair climbing and low-impact aerobics can help slow the loss of bone mass as we age. Additionally, strength training specific muscles, such as those in the upper back, have a beneficial impact on our bones and posture. Training our postural muscles and moving with good technique when lifting, moving objects, and exercising can minimize the strain on our bodies. When our muscles are able to function in their most correct positions, we are more mechanically efficient and thereby able to avoid injury.
Regardless of age, we will still see a benefit from these strengthening exercises. Several studies have compared people between 70 and 80 years old with people 20 to 30 years old engaging in the same strength training regimen for 12 weeks. Researchers evaluated the participants’ strength before and after the program and found that the amount of strength gain in both groups was similar, despite their age difference. So it is never too late, or too early, to work on protecting your muscle and bone mass! The most important thing to remember is that having a variety in your exercise programming will provide you with the most benefit, as each type of movement works the body differently.
Although we cannot increase bone mass, we can slow down the rate of loss and increase muscular strength. Joining Community Support Connections’ virtual SMART™ exercise classes are a great place to start, but we can also add physical activity into our everyday lives by making active choices.