Monday, July 19, 2010

What happens to muscles as we age?

Muscle mass decreases as we age. Beginning in the fourth decade of life, adults lose 3%-5% of muscle mass per decade, and the decline increases to 1%-2% per year after age 50. Muscle keeps us strong, it burns calories and helps us maintain our weight, and it contributes to balance and bone strength. Without it, we can lose our independence and our mobility.

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Is it ever too late to build muscle?

The good news is that muscle mass can increase at any age in response to exercise. In an important study of weight lifting and older adults conducted with 100 male and female residents of a nursing home in Boston (age range: 72 to 98 years of age; average age 87), subjects lifted weights with their legs three times a week for 10 weeks. At the end of the study, there was an increase in thigh mass of 2.7%, walking speed increased 12%, and leg strength increased a whopping 113%!

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In a similar study of adults 65-79 years old, subjects who lifted weights three times a week for three months increased their walking endurance by 38% (from 25 minutes to 34 minutes) without appreciable increases in mass. Ida Weiss, a 91-year-old participant in the Boston study, had the following to say after the study, "It's very beneficial for me. Things that I couldn't do when I came here, I can do now. I didn't think that I was going to live anymore, but I feel different now."

Can I get stronger without building big muscles?

Importantly, strength isn't just a function of mass. It's also a function of something called "neurological patterning." In layman's terms, patterning is when the brain sends electrical signals via the nervous system to muscles to make them contract. For example, when you think about walking down the street, bending over to pick something up, or any other movement for that matter, the brain first processes the thought and figures out what muscles are needed to make the move and then sends the signal over the nerves to the particular muscles that are necessary for the movement. The muscles move (and so do you) once the signal reaches them.

The good news here is that muscle patterning improves within days of starting a weight-lifting program, even without any increase in muscle mass. This explains the 113% increase in strength experienced by the residents of the nursing home in Boston. In a different study that specifically investigated this phenomenon, 67- to 81-year-old men lifted weights for six weeks while hooked up to electrodes that measure nerve and muscle patterning (an electromyogram machine). The results showed that the men experienced a 25% increase in the patterning of the muscle along with a 35% increase in strength, all without significant increases in size.

Benefits of Weight Training for Older Adults

  • Better control of symptoms of Diabetes, Arthritis, Osteoporosis, back pain and even Depression.
  • Prevents falls due to restoration of balance.
  • Improved Posture stability.
  • Increased flexibility and range of motion.
  • Strengthens the bones and reduces risk of fractures.
  • Improves sleep and heart muscle by increasing Muscular Endurance.
  • Healthy, independent and functional life.
10 Weight Training Tips for Elderly People

  1. Start a weight training program and work at your pace. Do not hurry.
  2. If you want a fit physique there is no substitute for resistance training.
  3. Learn the best Weight Training practices. It’s easier to learn correct methods than to unlearn the wrong ones. 
  4. Start with the best Weight Training Exercises and master them.
  5. Stay injury free - The correct exercise methods I reveal will help you remain Injury-free as injuries in older people takes longer time to heal.
  6. You do not have to lose Muscle mass with age. Rather you can maintain what you have and build some more quality muscle mass with weight training.
  7. A good Stretching and Warm Up program is absolutely crucial to develop mobility, strength and cardiovascular endurance.
  8. Weight Training can be a fountain of youth. Use this gift and work consistently.
  9. Weight Training Diet becomes even more important when you train with weights.
  10. Desire and Dedication will show on your body. If you want a better body then there is no substitute to hard work.
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Weight Training Diet Basics

A Basic Balanced Diet is more important when you train with weights. Food is very important for production of energy and with weight training it’s even more important to build muscle and get them toned. The efforts in the gym will be a waste without sufficient high quality calories.

Foods to Eat

·         Carbohydrates - Rice, Pasta, Biscuits, Noodles, cereals and potatoes
·         Proteins - Chicken breast, turkey, egg whites.
·         Fats - Udo's choice oil, flaxseed oil.

High quality Energy Drink - Water
 
The Fluid regulation mechanism is compromised in older adults, an effect of aging. This is because of reduced water conservation by kidneys {reduction in Nephron numbers and reduced sensitivity of these nephrons to ADH} coupled with the reduced thirst sensitivity seen in older adults.
Therefore it is a must that older people should drink water every 1-2 hours even in the absence of thirst. If you drink water only when thirst arises, then it might be too late to prevent dehydration, however minimal it might be.

Sources and Additional Information:

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