The first thing that pops into your mind when somebody said “elderly”
Bones, just like muscles, became stronger as you train them with combination of adequate rest and nutrition. As you grow past 30, they will plateau and then slowly go on a decline. Finally, for some people, they will experience muscle shrinkage i.e. sarcopenia. Aging and its related loss of strength is natural, hence even world class athletes retire. Common university biology undergraduate textbook will tell you that this gradual loss of strength to be expected. And some personal trainers would simply advice old people to use barbie weights to avoid injury. But how good is this suggestion?
What the Research Says
Surprise! Multiple research, including at Tuft University have actually proven that elderly musculature responded to strength training just as much as younger people do. In fact researchers at University of Potsdam shows that elderly needs up to at least 85% intensity for the improving the rate of force development. Researchers in Korea have shown that even single joint strength training can improve balance on the elderly.
Some find it sensational, but its proven that old people can beat up young professional fighters, provided that the said old person trains properly
Why Do Most Old People Don’t Train?
Laziness is an easy answer. And its true that many of these elderly don’t even like spending time doing exercise in their youth. However, some of them were physically active in their youth. So what happened?
Very common hamstring stretch that could actually give you low back pain if not done properly
Pain is the answer! Be it low nerve pain caused by lower back disorder or joint pain caused by ligament or cartilage damage. Our spine and our joints are host to different connective tissues such as spine disk, cartilage and ligaments that unlike muscles, don’t have blood capillaries in them. Due to the lack of blood capillaries, these tissues do not recover rapidly. Think of how ankle sprain took longer to heal than a cut in the arms. Years, if not decades of bad movement habits are usually one of the reasons that causes these connective tissues to deteriorate over time. Faulty stretching can also cause ligament pain if it involves ligament instead of muscle stretch. Hence movements that used to be pain free became painful as they age.
What is the Solution?
If the elderly in question prefer a fast, easy solution, then do nothing and slowly use his or her mobility is a solution. If this prospect does not sound enticing to some people, then the only solution is to hit the weight room! After all, as mentioned at the beginning of this article, the research is unanimous that elderly should do weight bearing exercise. Of course for some people, a proper movement coach is needed, and some movement coach are more “equal” than others. As mentioned in my previous article, even the simple compound exercise done correctly can have rehabilitative effect while done incorrectly will damage your joints! This is the way our body is designed, especially for muscle strength, either you use it, or you loose it. For upper body exercise, the humble push up is one of the best exercise you can do without any equipment and can be easily adjusted based on strength.