THE importance of exercise is never out of the spotlight, with 150 minutes a week of moderate activity, like walking, often cited as the ideal.
But how many of us are doing regular strength training as well?
A new survey by DW Sports in the UK found that 40% of over-65s do no strength exercise at all, while just over half (56%) were doing the National Health Service recommended two sessions a week, giving major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms) a boost.
Basically, it’s exercises aimed at supporting, maintaining and improving strength — as opposed to, say, an aerobic or cardio activity, that’s all about getting the lungs and heart working.
It doesn’t have to mean lifting weights or pumping iron in the gym, though. In the same way something as simple as going for a walk can count as a work-out, you can find accessible and creative ways to work on your strength too — such as digging or shovelling in the garden, activities like doing steps up and down on the first step of the stairs, jumping and dancing, carrying shopping bags, or joining a yoga class.
Of course, you could even do some push-ups and sit-ups on the carpet if you’re able to.
Remember to check with your healthcare professional before embarking on any new exercise regime, and if you have health conditions that might be aggravated by certain activities — or make them harder — seek advice for how you can find suitable ways to build strength.
Maintaining your strength as you get older is actually very important. The main reason is to avoid musculoskeletal conditions, such as osteoarthritis, and back, knee and hip pain, which are among the leading causes of pain and disability.
Britain’s oldest personal trainer, Eddy Diget, 72, is an advocate of strength training for the older generation, especially for women.
“In my opinion, females aged 50-plus are most vulnerable to musculoskeletal conditions.
“They lose calcium in their bones and their joints become dry through lack of ‘lubrication’ as they get older.
“This can give rise to various bone and joint problems, as they do not have much muscle density,” he explains.
“If they fall, they are more prone to break a bone, even more common is splintering of the bone, not unlike a glass breaking on a solid floor — it’s very hard to repair and this can have devastating effects on the individual and/or family.
“Because of this lack of muscle density, the joints become ‘sloppy’ as the ligaments and tendons lose their elasticity and the bones/joints become unstable as age progresses, just like the elastic in a bra will go first, not ‘holding’ nor fitting correctly!
“But regular strength exercise will keep the muscles tight and joints lubricated, improving posture, flexibility, fitness and health, as it tightens these important elements within the body.
“Men, on the other hand, tend to already have muscle density, and because of this, they do have stronger muscles, ligaments and tendons to hold the bones in check and help their flexibility, minimalising the risk of broken bones if they fall.”
Also, in men, the presence of testosterone promotes generation of the myosin, a protein that plays a part in joint and muscle lubrication.
“But that doesn’t mean older men can take their strength for granted.
“Working with weights for both male or female, no matter what their age, causes muscles to contract and expand, and will go a long way in avoiding loss of calcium, posture, strength, balance, and joint or bone problems,” notes Diget.