Combating Signs and Symptoms of Aging

Combating signs and symptoms of aging with resistance training

People who lead a sedentary lifestyle are most likely to experience pronounced sarcopenia (a degenerative loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength associated with aging). Sitting around on the couch is a good way to ensure serious loss of muscle mass late in life.

Physiologists have found a simple cure: resistance training (RT). For years, physicians have recommended 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least 3 times a week, even for seniors. In most cases, suggestions include exercises like walking. This is excellent for the cardiopulmonary system, and it does build some muscle, but resistance training that requires the use of weights to build muscle is often overlooked. Studies since the late 1990s pointing to RT as a tool against sarcopenia have some therapists and physicians starting to recommend RT over aerobic exercise.

RT has proven that elderly people need not live out their days stooped over and shuffling. Not only has adopting a resistance training routine in middle age been proven to reduce the appearance of sarcopenia later in life, but RT programs undertaken by the elderly have been shown to actually reverse sarcopenia by redeveloping muscle mass. Increasing protein intake also helps build muscle. These two breakthroughs combined could lead to a healthier senior adult population, one in which the signs of age aren't quite so obvious.

Nearly all seniors can benefit from resistance and strength training to increase muscle strength, improve functional ability, or prevent further decline.  However, an elderly adult should seek professional advice from their doctor, certified personal trainer or physical therapist before beginning a resistance training program

There are four components of physical activity that are important for a well-balanced exercise plan. All are important, but resistance training has been shown to decrease frailty and improve muscle strength even in very elderly adults. Exercise is recommended on most days of the week, but a minimum of three times a week is recommended to slow muscle loss and prevent sarcopenia.

  • Endurance exercises improve the cardiovascular and circulatory systems (low-impact exercises).
  • Strength training to reduce sarcopenia, build muscle, and possibly prevent osteoporosis. Resistance training should be done three times per week. Alone and in combination with nutritional supplementation, strength training increases strength and functional capacity.
  • Balance to prevent falls. This may include tai chi, or something as simple as standing on one leg with eyes closed, though older adults may need to hold on to something while doing this.
  • Flexibility to recover from or prevent injuries (i.e. yoga or stretching exercises). This may also help prevent falls.

Having a family member, caregiver, or geriatric care manager suggest and monitor a RT routine can help aging loved ones stay healthy longer and increase the likelihood of aging in place successfully!


Published on April 13, 2012.