SportsPlus Physio
Unit 25, Quintin's Way, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary Phone: 067 42837   Email:

Strengthening in Relation to the Older Adult.

As people get older things slow down on several levels. If left unchecked the rate of decline can be quite steep. This can result in diminished ability to perform functional tasks and an increased rate of falls. Research has shown that a major factor associated with the risk of falls is strength. A misconception exists that older people cannot make strength gains. Loss of strength in older people is called sarcopenia. Resistance exercise can slow the loss of muscle strength in older adults but the vast majority of older adults do not engage in this form of exercise as they are afraid that they will cause themselves injury and they are not fully aware of the potential benefits.

Strengthening exercises for the older adult has been shown to result in strengthening muscles, maintaining bone density, improving balance, improving mobility, improving coordination, improving mood and improving sleeping pattern. As if that wasn’t enough of a reason to do strengthening exercises this form of activity has been shown to improve symptoms of diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, back pain, obesity and depression.

If you are an older adult and you think you would like to embark on a programme of strengthening exercise your first stop has to be with your GP. You need to explain what you want to do and get your GP to do a full physical on you to make sure that there is no medical reason that you should not start some strengthening work. Your next stop should be with your chartered physiotherapist to screen you and identify what areas you need to prioritise in terms of strengthening. It is important that your chartered physiotherapist and your GP are in communication to ensure that any potential problems are identified before they happen and to make sure you are safe.

Your chartered physiotherapist is trained in identifying your weaknesses and advising you on how to safely begin and methodically work through progressions of exercises over an appropriate time frame to maximise your potential gains. The progressions of resistance training as regards the older adult begin in the water. This allows you to work with percentages of body weight and against the resistance of the water. Then you move to body weight exercise in various positions using base of support, centre of gravity and equipment variations to offer you different intensities of work and to allow you to work different muscle groups. The final progression is to use external resistance in the form of weights, cables and resistance bands to further work the muscles and to result in overall strengthening.

For someone not accustomed to strength training it is best to begin with a program that exercises all the major muscle groups in the same session. 2-3 sessions each week is recommended with 24-48 hours between each session to allow full recovery. Recovery is vital because with strength training what you are doing is pushing the muscle beyond what it is used to and cause some microdamage within the muscle. This stimulates it to recover stronger than it was previously in anticipation of the same load again. If you exercise before you are fully recovered you will not make any gains as you are just damaging the muscle.

The intensity, frequency and type of training you embark on must be tailored to your specific needs and goals so the best step is to give us a call in Nenagh on 067 42837 and we can talk you through what you need to do. We plan to begin classes in the near future to teach you about the benefits and the basics of strength training for older adults so let us know if this is something you would be interested in. All questions, feedback and ideas are appreciated.

John Casey.

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