I’ve got to dedicate this weeks column to one of my hardest working clients, Joellen Allenberg. She is 60 years old but outworks many of my younger clients.
She has become super strong since we started working together, and regularly cycles 30-plus miles, weather permitting. She is a powerful example of what can be achieved at any age with hard work and commitment. She is a pleasure to work with, and I look forward to seeing more progress from her.
Baby boomers have become the hottest demographic in health and fitness as many of them have realized that eating healthy and staying active is truly the fountain of youth. If you are in this group, you probably have a gym membership, read health/fitness magazines, buy nutritional supplements, eat a heart-healthy diet and probably have a few home fitness videos. One thing, however, that I think a lot of boomers have yet to fully embrace is regular strength training.
Strength training has a multitude of benefits for every person which I’ve discussed in previous columns. However, for the boomers and the elderly, adding strength training to your exercise regimen has benefits that are specific to your needs.
Bone and joint strengthening
Strength training improves the strength and density of bones and joints, which can help to stave off or reduce the effects of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. According to the CDC (www.cdc.gov), a 16-week study from Tufts University on a group of older men and women with moderate to severe osteoarthritis showed that the effects strength training to ease the pain of the disease was just as potent, if not more than medication. That gym membership isn’t looking so expensive anymore is it?
Balance and injury prevention
Strength training with freeweights can improve one’s balance and unilateral strength, greatly decreasing the likelihood of a debilitating injury from a fall. Balance is just like anything else, if you don’t train it, you will lose it. Loss of balance is one of the causes of debilitating falls in the older populations, prevention should a priority.
Strength training builds lean muscle mass, which helps keep your metabolic rate revving at optimal levels, even increasing your metabolism by up to 15 percent. Loss of muscle mass contributes to excess fat weight, and loss of overall power. We don’t want to live out our retirement all weak and flabby do we?
Physical accomplishments from strength training helps build self-confidence and fights depression. This can have a great impact on your overall quality of life. You’ll be motivated to do more because you can do more. You can play with the grandkids, you can go on that long hike in Yellowstone, you can take that kayak excursion in Aruba.
Heck, you can just carry your own groceries. Feeling able feels great.
Find a good trainer who has specialty education with strength training for elders, and experience in practice. Elders shouldn’t necessarily train like bodybuilders, as you need a more complete program that includes balance and functional strength training to get all the benefits laid out above.
Get stronger, and get more from the best years of your life.
Chad Smith is a Hagerstown personal trainer and co-owner of Home Team Fitness LLC. Go to www.getsmithfit.com for more information.