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Strength Training = Strong Bones
by Jennifer Felker CSCS

A critical aspect of aging is the general weakening of both muscle tissue and our bones themselves. One of the surest ways to reduce the stress on our weakening bones is to increase our muscles mass through strength training.

(Article continued below.)

Strength training has repeatedly been shown to be a safe and effective method of reversing muscle loss in the elderly. This muscle loss, referred to as sarcopenia, actually begins around age 45. At that time, the average person's muscle mass begins to decline at a rate of about 1 percent per year.

Because of this natural deterioration of the body, strength training has become an important aspect of senior physical exercise routines. Simply stated, strength training helps prevent the breakdown of healthy muscle tissue and bones and strengthens connective tissues around the joints such as ligaments.

The stronger a person's body is, the less chance that person has of an injury through accidents, as well as greater resistance to virus related illnesses.

Recent findings show the positive impact of just a 12-week strength-training program. In a group of volunteers with the joint disease osteoarthritis, muscle strength increased by 14 percent while balance improved by 55 percent after the 12-week program. Flexibility reportedly improved by 17 percent, while pain decreased by 30 percent.

In another group of volunteers with chronic kidney disease, the same 12-week regiment also had a profound effect. These volunteers, on low-protein diets, still increased their muscle fiber by 32 percent and muscle strength by 30 percent after training. In contrast, those who did not train lost about 9 pounds, or 3 percent of their body weight.

When it comes to strength training, there are generally two types of training that are featured in magazines, body sculpting and bodybuilding. The first type of training is the form that best fits seniors and their needs. Body sculpting theory generally speaks to the ability of women to add approximately 5 pounds of muscle and for men up to 10 pounds.

Weight training should be done in very short sessions as not only does excess workout time reduce the body building aspects, it will also lead to greater muscle soreness and prevent you from feeling loose the next time you work out. As you work out, you should also pause between exercises to catch your breath.

For the best results, work with weights on good quality exercise machines, starting with a weight that allows the performance of 8 -12 repetitions of the exercise. After performing the lifts, rest for about 60 seconds then perform a second set of 8 -10 repetitions. All gyms now have qualified instructors — take advantage of these folks to check on the weight you are using as well as your technique as you perform each lift.

When weight training, seek to perform a weight training session two times a week, with two days' rest between sessions and never train severely sore muscles. As with any form of exercise be sure to warm-up and stretch before you work out as well as cool down and stretch once you have finished.

An interesting aspect of weight training comes from the element of desired weight reduction that many seniors seek. Because older people need to reduce their body fat to prevent other health problems, including heart disease and diabetes, many seek that reduction through dieting.

But excess fat does have the benefit of maintaining bone mass while fat loss through diet alone often leads to loss of bone, accelerating bone loss due to aging and increasing the risk factor for fractures.

When it comes to increasing bone density however, older people have to exercise very hard and for a period longer than six months. Though moderate-intensity exercise can increase fitness and reduce body fat, gains in bone density occur only among those who achieve a substantial fitness level.

However, when fat loss comes as a result of exercise, there isn't a corresponding loss of bone mass that occurs when patients lose weight through dieting techniques. Creating greater physical strength is seen as an excellent method for reducing the risk of bone fractures.

Because most seniors who break a bone generally do so after a fall, increasing muscle strength directly improves balance, helping to prevent the very falls that can lead to breaks.

Therefore strength training is one of the most important ways to slow down the process of aging and protect virtually all of the body's functions.

About The Author:
Jennifer Felker CSCS is the author of many fitness articles and research papers. Jen is the publisher of a very popular exercise and fitness blog and can be found at: http://exercise-fitness-advisory.com.

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