Strength training can increase healthy years in your future

By Monica Cissell | May 31, 2024

Sometimes it’s difficult to find the energy and motivation to exercise, especially when factors like bad weather and lack of access to an exercise facility are added in. But exercise is important at any age, and strength training is an important part. 

Research into strength training by the National Institute on Aging has found it increases muscle mass and mobility. By challenging their muscles, adults over 60 can stay strong, active and engaged.

One of the most critical take-aways from this research is the concept of “use it or lose it.” As we age, there is a loss of muscle mass and strength, a condition called sarcopenia. This leads to a higher risk of falls, injuries and even death. According to the NIA, poor nutrition and lack of exercise increase the chance of developing sarcopenia. On the other hand, it can be slowed by maintaining an active lifestyle. 

Roger Fielding, a NIA researcher, strongly urges older adults to keep pushing the body’s muscles as they age. He and his colleagues have found that “the best recipe for improving physical function and avoiding disability is a combination of walking and strength training (also known as resistance training).” Strength training includes weight lifting using machines or hand weights; using a medicine ball, resistance bands or body; and weight-bearing exercises like pushups, squats and yoga. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend older adults strength train two times a week, alternating these days with walking, biking or other aerobic activity. Easing into strength training is recommended, starting with 10 to 15 minutes a day. Before changing an exercise routine or starting a new one, you may want to discuss it with your doctor.

Joe Samaniego, wellness coordinator for the Central Plains Area Agency on Aging, agreed that strength training has many benefits. It can reduce pain and stiffness caused by arthritis, increase loss of bone density caused by osteopenia or osteoporosis, help improve blood sugar control, decrease the risk of heart disease and increase metabolism. It’s especially important in reducing the risk of falls.

In Samaniego’s Enhance Fitness class, he is known for sayings like “motion is lotion, and rest is rust” and “strength is never a weakness, and weakness is never a strength.” His enthusiastic approach has won him a following of individuals committed to improving their health and the 2024 Byron G Stout IV Meritrust Wellness Champion Award for his work.

Interested in learning more about strength training or increasing your physical activity? Check out the Enhance Fitness class at the Haysville Senior Center M-W-F from 1-2 p.m. Individuals 55+ are welcome. There is no cost to attend.

Monica Cissell is deputy director of CPAAA, which offers a variety of wellness programs. Call CPAAA’s resource center at 855-200-2372 for information on services and programs available to older adults and caregivers.