Power to the Elderly!

Posted: January 2, 2013 in Uncategorized
View Source: seniorsguide.net

View Source: seniorsguide.net

Alejandro Lopez CSCS

Strolling into your local gym, you will typically see all of the youngins swarmed around the heavy weights and latest machinery leaving the elderly participants relegated to the old-school machines and cardio machinery. They normally perform resistance and cardiovascular exercise with the lowest possible resistance at a very slow pace. Though this may seem to be the safe, proper form for the elderly, it certainly is far from the most beneficial.

When individuals age (past 40 and sometimes sooner), hormone levels including testosterone fall dramatically and muscle loss, sarcopenia, becomes almost inevitable when a sedentary lifestyle is the predominant one. Therefore, to delay the onset and progression of sarcopenia and osteopenia, bone loss, regular exercise is recommended. But which form of exercise is most beneficial and how is it best accomplished?

Muscle mass and, specifically,  its ability to express power, the velocity at which a weight is moved or displaced,  is the first to go and this proves problematic for the elderly who still require the ability to carry objects around the house without injury and without long delays. This means that when older gym-goers engage in resistance exercise the weight should be low enough to prevent injury but high enough to pose somewhat of a challenge (overload principle). The weight should also be raised at a relatively high rate of speed to improve on the power lost with age. It is extremely important to note that the weight should never be lowered quickly nor jerked back and forth forsaking form and function. Power training involves a quick concentric, upward motion and a more controlled, evenly paced eccentric, lowering motion.

Because safety is of the utmost concern when working with the elderly, machines rather than free weights should be utilized for power training. Machines typically offer a strict movement path for the exercise and a seated position to prevent slip and fall. So you can leave the light free weights for assistance work during arm and shoulder workouts.

So there you  have it. Though resistance training was solely mentioned, this does not imply that cardiovascular exercise is unimportant. On the contrary, maintaining function of the heart and lungs is vital for anyone, particularly the elderly.

Happy Lifting!

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