Keeping good muscle strength as well as length to maintain movement is an important component of an exercise program
Muscles change with age, inactivity, injury or a chronic condition. This results in weak muscles, reduced mass, decreased quality and flexibility. Some muscles tighten whilst others lengthen which can change overall body alignment. Muscle can be improved with exercise. For best results and for safety reasons, maintaining correct alignment, form and technique are important elements to apply in any exercise regime. Muscle weakness can be overcome and improved by strength training. It is important therefore to include a strengthening component within any exercise program. Apart from improving muscle strength it also improves functional capacity and mobility. Muscle does not alter the ability to adapt to task requirements. It is possible for anyone at any age to undertake a strength training program provided basic safety considerations and exercise principles are followed.
For optimal lifelong functional capacity a certain amount of muscle mass is necessary. Otherwise activities become harder or impossible to do. Then capacity diminishes because of inactivity. Muscles have different properties which provide the variety of necessary daily movements being undertaken by everyone. These range from free, easy functional movements to power and strength activities as well as flexibility; endurance; speed and fine motor skills.
Consequences of Weak Muscles (Sarcopenia)
Overall muscle strength changes that occur result in a) Reduction in muscle function relating to general movement involving activities of daily living capacity b) Reduced strength; mobility; joint pain c) Reduced body control and Increased risk of falls and injuries (with bone fracture association) d) Loss of function, independence and reduced quality of life.Research is recognising the importance of maintaining muscle mass and strength to increase functional independence and decrease the prevalence of many age-associated chronic diseases.
(Extracts obtained from ACSM position stand. Exercise and physical activity for older adults 1998
Strength and Stretching Exercises Benefits
Muscles essentially create and control movement therefore a good level of muscular strength and capacity is important. Muscles have many roles and functions linked to various activity needs as shown below
- Progressive strength training can reduce preserve, protect and / or prevent some of the decline associated with ageing and inactivity. Good muscular control increases and maintains muscle mass, power, strength and endurance
- Maintains a good circulatory system by working to pump blood through the body
- Assists manage specific conditions by stabilising specific joints to retain good overall body alignment (decreasing joint swelling and pain related issues etc.)
- Increases joint stability to prevent poor alignment/ postural problems and reduces pain associated factors
- Assists maintain bone strength to prevent / reduce the problems associated with osteoporosis
- Maintains efficient and effective body systems.
- Maintains free and easy movements for good functional activities necessary for daily living and protects against unsafe movement .e.g. lifting and carrying ; pushing and pulling
- Helps in the management of diabetes (improved glucose uptake).
- Increases vitality and energy levels which in turn improves stamina and general fitness;
- 1Lifts mood thereby reduces depression and improves mental capacity.
Strong Muscles ....Exercise Potential
Strength Basics exercise guidelines
- Always include warm up and cool down before undertaking strength training
- Stretch at the end of the exercise- each muscle group or at end of session
- When starting - One set of 8- 12 repetitions is sufficient
- Consider and apply correct starting lifting techniques
- Lifting speed = 3 up 3 down - hold position for 2-3 seconds
- Dont speed up as the weights increase
- Work on perceived rate of intensity (it should not be too easy)
- If there is a sub maximal effort increase the number of repetitions before increasing the resistance or weights
- Gradually progress the amount of weight being lifted to challenge the muscles
Keeping flexible is an important component of an exercise program
Muscle elasticity diminishes with age with increased muscle stiffness resulting in joint stiffness and the body becoming tighter. Increased stiffness occurs in all joints of the body and surrounding soft tissue e.g. tendons, ligaments, joint capsule, fascia. Restricted movement is directly linked to reduction in functional abilities and there is a marked increased susceptibility to falls and associated injuries. The overall body can become resistant to stretching. Stretching exercises are therefore an important component of an exercise program as well as strengthening exercises
Stretching - Basics exercise guidelines
- Always consider and apply correct starting position and body alignment
- Avoid bouncing or jerky movements (especially with arthritic joints changes)
- Only stretch as far as is comfortable (there is no such thing as no pain no gain)
- Try to hold the stretch for at least between 15- 20 seconds at a time
- Breathe normally and stay relaxed
Don't get stuck in the chair, staying indoors or doing the same old things. Take up the challenges and try a variety of ways to be active at home or work...but above all to enjoy what you do! Consider undertaking 10 minute sessions of exercise throughout the day as this is achievable and easy to do and has great health and fitness benefits. By undertaking small sessions whether they are incidental or planned activities... the accumulation effect mounts up to achieve the recommended accumulation daily amount.10 Ideas to start becoming more active.
1) Stand More and Sit Less - Aim to stand up and stretch 10 times a day (one way of preventing long term postural and back problems)
2) Walk and Talk - Aim to walk with a friend or walk the dog and pick up the pace for at least a 10 minute brisk walk (walking is a great aerobic exercise)
3) Use the Stairs - Aim to take at least 10 steps up and down daily as this is a great way to keep the legs strong and the circulation flowing well (a great aerobic and strength routine)
4) Walk don't drive (to the shops) - Aim to walk to the shops if they are only 10 minutes away from home or park a little further away from the shops (a great aerobic exercise)
5) Join Group Exercises - Aim to try 10 different forms of groups exercise throughout the year and find the one(s) that you like and suits your needs, interests and abilities
6) Many Steps and Many Moves - Aim to try 10 different forms of dancing throughout the year (a fun and great way to get fit)
7) Take to the Water - Aim to become active in water - try walking or swimming for 10 minutes nonstop (a great form of exercise without straining the joints)
8) Take a Bike - Aim to start with a 10 minute cycle ride and explore the local area (a great aerobic exercise)
9) Get Digging, Mowing and Raking - Aim to undertake 10 minutes of work at a time in the garden - but be careful not to strain the back (a great aerobic and strength routine)
10) Take a Hike - aim to start off with a series of 10 minute walks to build the fitness levels and stamina. Maybe take up the challenge to getting fit enough for a 10 km walk! (a great aerobic exercise)
Consider all this as play time - make 10, Take 10! Aim to find 10 fun activities that you have always wanted to try... it is never too late.
The body cannot afford to remain inactive for a long period of time and needs constant maintenance. It is possible for any one regardless of age or condition to improve their health and fitness level. There are certain physical changes that are irreversible, but equally, there are some that can be maintained or even improved and this includes most of the components of physical fitness.
Consider undertaking 3 x 10 minute sessions of exercise throughout the day . This is achievable, easy to do and can have great health and fitness benefits. By undertaking small sessions whether they are incidental or planned activities, the accumulation effect mounts up to the daily 30 minute recommended amount!
10 Good Reasons to Exercise... Functioning Well and Feeling Well!:
- Heart and lung health - Maintains efficient heart and lung function (+ good blood pressure and circulation)
- Good muscle function and movement – Helps maintain good muscle length, strength and power to allow for good functional abilities
- Bones health – Helps maintain good bone strength and reduce the risk of the complications associated with osteoporosis
- Joint health – Helps maintain good joint function to allow for effective mobility, stability and lubrication of joints which is so important for arthritic joints
- Digestive health –Moving the body helps keep the internal body systems working well
- Weight management – Assists with weight control in conjunction with a sensible well balanced diet
- Better body control – By challenging and stimulating the nervous system, involving co-ordination and balance moves, it can help reduce the risk of falls and related injuries.
- Sleep – Regular exercise can assist in achieving a deeper, more satisfying sleep
- Sickness – The fitter and healthier the body, the more it is able to help overcome illness and infections
- Mood and memory – Exercise can help maintain optimal mental abilities and lift the mood which assists coping with difficult and stressful situations more easily Improve your physical capacity and choices for a healthy satisfying lifestyle.
Maintain and Manage your physical, mental and social vitality at optimal levels Prevent and Protect yourself from any unnecessary deterioration in health conditions and physical function as far as possible Achieve Good Health and Live The Way You Want As Best You Can! NB. If you have any concerns please always seek advice and support from appropriate medical allied health and fitness professionals
There are many ways of exercising - all of which have merit. There are many clinical, allied health and fitness professionals ready and willing to help you in your endeavours……. but ultimately it’s up to you!
“Those who do not find the time to exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness”
Sally Castell - Movement Matters
The overall challenge however is for everyone to find the ways and means to remain active and healthy for as long as possible in order to participate fully in the many dimensions required to sustain a quality and fulfilling life. MORE
The body needs to remain mobile, strong and have sufficient energy to be able to function well on a day to day basis. Generally fitness and health decline with inactivity, which may eventually fall below the level required to perform everyday tasks easily. Optimal functional ability is necessary to perform many daily tasks to achieve purposeful, good and safe results. The ability to remain active and fit is possible throughout life and all bodies from young to old are able to exercise in varying degrees. Exercise is an important element to include in an overall wellness initiative and it is most important, as we get older. (It needs to be ongoing – once is not enough!)
There are many physiological and associated chronic conditions changes that people may encounter throughout the life cycle and not all older adults lose abilities at the same rate or to the same degree. In general muscle strength and elasticity diminish with age and joints stiffen resulting in the body becoming tighter which restricts easy effective daily movement. Flexibility and strengthening exercises are a particularly important component of an older adult program in relation to arthritis, osteoporosis, low back pain, and history of physical inactivity and history of falls
There is a need for to be a variety of graded programs available to accommodate the different needs, levels of abilities and multiple health states / condition Studies suggest that PA programs combining aerobic/ strength / flexibility components have promising results and protect against cognitive and physical capacity decline associated with ageing
It is good to learn about your health and wellbeing to reduce and problems now and for future reference. Protect yourself by maintaining good fitness levels. Maintain good movement and strength to reduce your risk of stresses and strains to your body. The fitter you are, the less at risk you are of injury yourself and having muscle and joint strains. Invest in your body; your health and protect your body by maintaining good fitness levels
“Because of their low functional status and high incidence of chronic disease, there is no segment of the population that can benefit more from exercise training than the elderly” (Evans 1995)
Any exercise program should suit your fitness / health needs and expectations so please be patient with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others; you have your own goals …so find the fitness regime that suits you.
It is important that you stop exercising if you feel dizzy; light headed; having discomfort or pains in the chest; are breathless.
Some discomfort may be experienced initially when exercising. Your body is receiving new messages and needs to adjust to accommodate the new movements. Take things slowly and you will find everything will gradually become easier to do. You can get fitter and more able to do things.
Invest in your body; your health and protect your body by maintaining good fitness levels.
Be Patient with yourself…results will take time…If in doubt ask the experts!!