By: Dr. Beth Templin
Strength training in older adults is often overlooked or more frequently under-dosed. What do I mean by that? In order to actually make a change in your strength, one that will make an impact on your quality of life, you need to follow the Overload Principle. The Overload Principle basically states that you must do more than what your body is used to in order to see change.
When an exercise becomes easy, it is no longer effective at helping you make gains. The issue I most often see is that older adults are somewhat intimidated by lifting heavy weights. They often assume they are not strong enough and underestimate how strong they truly are.
In one study performed at the University of Otago, researchers followed older adults for 1 year while they completed an exercise program designed to improve balance and leg strength. Participants were supervised by a physical therapist and were instructed to perform a series of leg strengthening exercises 3 times a week.
Each time the exercise became easier, they were instructed to increase the weight. After one year, participants were able to perform those leg exercises with weights up to 14 pounds! Even more exciting, the people who benefited most from this type of strengthening routine were women over the age of 80 who had a history of a previous fall!
I doubt many of you are currently on a progressive strengthening routine, but there are so many good reasons why you should be. Not only will it improve your leg strength and balance, it will also help you stay active and independent.
When older adults begin to lose their strength, one of the first things that become more difficult for them is being able to stand up from a chair without use of their arms. Getting up and down from the floor also becomes harder to do without the use of a chair or assistance of another person.
Even tasks like carrying your groceries, picking up your pets or carrying your grandchildren down the stairs can become a little nerve wracking. But it does not have to be that way.
As the quote “A little progress each day adds up to big results” indicates, small changes can add up to big results. And at HouseFit, we love helping older adults get stronger and move better.