As we start our first ever twice weekly group personal training program for the over 65’s, we wanted to “start with why,” and explain some life changing benefits that we will be working for during this now permanent twice weekly class.
There are many people who find themselves overweight and slipping into old age far too quickly as they hit 65. Many are happy to sit with the stereotypes that the ageing number label them with, rather than making up their own rules about what they want to be doing in their 70’s and 80’s.
The truth is that the earlier that you start looking after your body and mind the more choices you are going to have about what you are able to do, and your quality of life in your last 10 years.
If you are healthy weight, with great cardio fitness and lean muscle mass, and eat a healthy nutritionally balanced diet, limit alcohol and sleep great, then rest assured the future is statistically very bright indeed.
It is however, never too late to start. This article explores how building muscle, and strength training will improve your quality of life and how even in your 60’s, 70’s and 80’s you can still make great progress and gains to your future life and health span.
Why build muscle?
As we age our muscle mass naturally decreases and unfortunately body fat percentage is likely to increase to replace the lean muscle that you have lost. By engaging in regular strength training you will help to preserve your lean muscle mass and keep your strength in your 60’s, 70’s and 80’s when you will need it the most.
Strength training has so many benefits at every age but here are some really important ones as you get over 65.
Strength training helps to develop stronger bones:
6 out of 10 people who break a hip never regain their former level of independence. Studies have shown that strength training plays a role in slowing bone loss and has even been proven to build bone. Activities that stress bones can remind bone forming cells to do their job. This form of resistance training targets the bones of the hips, spine and wrists which are often the most likely to fracture with a fall. Strong muscles lead to strong bones, and strong bones minimise fractures due to osteoporosis.
Strength training helps with fat loss:
Maintaining a healthy body weight is proven to help reduce the risks of Cancer, Type 2 Diabetes, Cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, and Strokes. Couple a healthy weight with the unquestionable benefits of exercise on mental health and cognitive function and you will be bouncing into your 80’s.
The doctors advice is to “lose weight.’ But if getting the number on the scales “correct’ means the loss of the majority of your muscle then please remember that being a skinny sack of skin is not going to help you when you fall over. Losing visceral body fat is the really important goal. This is the hidden fat stored deep inside the belly and even wrapped around your liver and intestines.
By building muscle through training with weights, you will keep your metabolism functioning at the best rate for your age. This is because your body uses more energy when you are at rest the more muscle that you have. The more energy you are burning the easier it is to maintain your optimum body weight, whilst still being able to eat plenty of nutritious food.
The holy grail of not storing excess fuel as fat, is to get to grips with eating the exact amount of food needed for your daily expenditure. If you eat too much it is stored as fat. The more you move the more you get to eat. The more muscle you have the more you get to eat. The better your metabolism is working the more you get to eat. If you want to eat more and not store it as fat then you need to do something about it.
Strength training will enhance your quality of life by:
- Protecting your joints from injury
- Giving you better balance which may reduce your risk of falling
- Giving you more confidence to be independent for longer
- Reducing signs and symptoms of arthritis, back pain, obesity, heart disease, depression & diabetes.
- Improving your thinking and learning skills
Can you still build muscle over the age of 65?
Certainly losing muscle mass as we age is well documented. After the age of 60 lean muscle mass decreases significantly, and the knock on effect of this is huge. The increase in falls, increased insulin resistance, and a loss of bone density is the perfect cocktail for a very poor final chapter of life.
Why do you lose your muscle in the first place?
The reasons for the decrease of muscle as ageing occurs involves a lack of nutrients, specifically the 9 essential amino acids, and a decrease in physical activity.
The 9 essential amino acids are involved in so many crucial bodily functions. From helping to absorb nutrients, fuelling the immune system, growing new tissue, energy production and repairing and rejuvenating your muscles.
Meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, and fish contain all 9 essential amino acids needed for minimising your muscle loss. This means they are ‘complete’ sources of protein. Soy and pea protein are also plant-based complete protein sources. A food containing all 9 essential amino acids is called a complete protein.
Nuts, seeds, beans, peas, and whole grains are excellent sources of protein but only form a complete protein when they are consumed together.
Can you get your muscle back if you are over 65?
It would make sense then, to increase muscle building activity, in combination with an increased consumption of the 9 essential amino acids in enough quantity to grow new tissue, and repair and rejuvenate your muscles as you work on them. But is it that simple as you get older?
Yes it is – you can still build muscle and strength in your 70’s and 80’s:
“Physical activity, especially resistance training, is unequivocally beneficial for elderly patients with regards to enhancing muscle mass and strength (Fiatarone et al., 1990; Dibble et al., 2006; Peterson et al., 2011; Drummond et al., 2012). A recent review found that when progressive resistance training (PRT) is performed 2–3 times a week at a high intensity, it results in improved physical function and strength (Liu and Latham, 2009). The frequency and duration of resistance exercise in elderly are recommended at 2–4 times per week on alternating days and lasting 30–60 min each; 1–3 sets of 8–15 reps at 80% of one-rep maximum strength, with a monthly progressive adjustment (American College of Sports Medicine Position Stand, 1998; Law et al., 2016).”
Another study comparing master athletes in their 70’s and 80’s, with a group of men of the same ages who had never exercised, showed surprising results. Both groups performed the same exercises for the same time with the assumption that the master athlete group would have the better capacity to build muscle due to their lifelong exercise habits. The untrained older men amazingly showed the same muscle gains thereby proving that it is never too late to start strength training to build muscle.
Building muscle over the age of 65 is still very achievable. With regular, consistent strength training sessions, combined with the intake of all 9 essential amino acids on a daily basis, it is highly likely that even in the older years muscle will still be grown. The benefits of increased muscle mass in old age will significantly improve health in numerous ways, many documented above. Therefore building muscle in your older years is not only still possible – but if you currently have limited muscle mass, it is going to be one of the biggest factors to helping you maintain your quality of life and continue your independence into your 80’s and beyond.