What You Need to Know About Strength and AgingBy
Common knowledge and experience tell us that we lose strength and endurance as we age. Many of us tell ourselves that we can’t do this or that activity (you insert the activity) for as long, or as fast or as hard as we did when we were young. Many people remember fondly their younger years of fitness and activity, and assume those are days long gone.
Most research studies have sited 40 years of age as the time that muscle mass declines, as much as 8% per decade. This can cause a reduction in strength, mobility and independence as well as cause us to gain weight. Most of us accept this, begrudgingly, as an inevitable consequence of getting older.
A recent small study at the University of Pittsburgh looked at this very issue and discovered that this assumption may not be entirely correct! This would suggest that we do not need to succumb to an age decline if we work at staying strong and fit, good news!
In this study, 40 competitive athletes aged 40-81 had measurements performed to determine strength and fat percentage. These included leg strength testing, muscle mass, fat percentage of body and muscle. It is observes that as muscle declines in strength, muscle fiber units are replaced with fat. These athletes included swimmers, cyclists and runners; men and women who continued to be successfully competitive within their age groups.There were 5 men and 5 women in each grouping of 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, and 70+.
What they found will surprise you!
Athletes in 70′s and 80′s had almost as much thigh mass as the 40-49 group, with only minor or no muscle fat infiltration. A slight drop in leg strength occurred in the 50-59 group as compared to the group in their 40′s, however there was virtually NO change in leg strength between groups in their 50′s,60′s and 70′s as well as over 80!
Granted, these study subjects are life long athletes and this data may not translate completely to you and I. It also does not address which types of physical activities would be best. It does tell us however, that it is never too late to build strength and physical fitness.
If you are starting a new activity, it is important to go slow at first so as not to harm yourself. You do not need to start a competitive activity such as mentioned above, to achieve some benefit. It is important to engage in physical activity that you are capable of doing as well as enjoy doing; so as to make it part of your regular routine. There are numerous ways you can add both aerobic and strength exercising into your routine without joining a gym. Send me your questions and thoughts on how you can increase your strength, share your suggestions with our readers.