A tried and tested prescription to prevent and treat advancing age!

By Maria Kearney, Croí’s Physical Activity Specialist

There is a steady decline in muscle and bone strength from the age of 40 that accelerates after the age of 65 or post-menopause in women. This can make everyday activities seem much more difficult and can also increase the risk of fracture and likelihood of future disability.

Exercise is an established and effective therapy for the maintenance of good health and quality of life throughout the lifespan. One of the most popular forms of exercise is going for a walk with the renowned Salthill Prom “wall kick” a great example of such an activity. Whilst walking is recognised as a medicine to be taken to help reduce our risk of several chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, it has limited impact on the age-related deterioration in our muscles and bones.

We need to start thinking about exercise as a collection of different medicines that can be taken in different doses to bring about specific effects. For example you would not take a blood pressure medicine to lower your cholesterol and vice versa. Likewise if you want to combat the loss of muscle and bone strength your walking “medicine” is not enough. In order to address this specific need you need to start considering lifting weights or to call it by its official name; resistance training. Let me guess, a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger popped in to your head and you have already decided that this is not for you. I urge you to read on and see if maybe your mind can be changed!

So what is resistance training? It involves performing a series of exercises where you lift a weight that you are unaccustomed to for a set amount of repetitions. It challenges the body in a very different way than aerobic exercise, like walking. Unlike walking, resistance training is a powerful stimulator of muscle, bone and nerve growth and development. It also improves balance, coordination and mobility. These are all important factors in healthy successful ageing and essential in combatting the age-associated decline in physical function.

One of the most common barriers to starting a resistance training programme centres on safety and fear of injury. However according to a large scale study of over 121 trials involving in excess of 6,700 participants, it was concluded that resistance training is both a safe and appropriate activity for older adults. Another common misconception is that age is a barrier to starting a resistance training programme. Again research is on our side here, with several studies reporting significant positive gains in both muscle size and strength in adults aged 80 and over. Furthermore the American College of Sports Medicine states that while resistance training is important through the lifespan it becomes even more so as we approach middle-age and beyond. Finally, as with all medicine, we do need to talk about the side effects of resistance training. As well as gains in muscle and bone strength, expect increases in vitality, psychological well-being, quality of life, and healthy life expectancy. These are much less unwanted side effects compared to swollen ankles and an annoying cough!

Hopefully your mind has been changed, or at least opened to the possibility that resistance training might be for you. Your next question might then be how do I get started?

Here at Croí we are running a resistance training programme specifically designed for the older adult (> 50 years of age) called Nifty Lifters. Participants on this programme are initially taught the fundamentals of resistance training including breathing, posture, alignment and technique. They are then encouraged to lift weights that are within their limits but still challenge their neuromuscular systems to adapt and develop. Expert guidance is on-hand at all times so participants feel fully supported throughout the process of learning this new skill of resistance training.

One of our current Nifty Lifters participants says, “I would not have been brave enough to go in to a gym and lift weights, but the supervision and instruction is fantastic on the Nifty Lifters programme. My confidence in my abilities has increased significantly and my posture has never been better.” Another Nifty Lifters participant commented that it is a class where he has felt “the benefits for days afterwards.”

Contact us now on 091-544310 for a full list of our Nifty Lifters classes or see www.croi.ie/classes and let’s get you started lifting your way to a healthier happier future!