We lose some muscle mass naturally as we grow older, that explains the declining muscle power and strength in the elderly. This problem gets worse if we lead a sedentary lifestyle or become bedridden due to illness.
But being old does not equate with weakness and frailty. Numerous studies have shown that regular physical exercise and strength training can help to build bone and muscle mass and improve our overall health and quality of life.
The muscles are strengthened when you lift or push against weight. This can be achieved by exercising with weights, or daily activities such as lifting and
carrying groceries, mowing lawn, digging the garden or vacuuming.
Strong muscles improve balance and make it easier to perform everyday activities – climbing stairs, getting out of car, carry groceries, walking dog etc. – with less risk of falling.
However, millions of people are letting their muscles wasting away. Based on a recent survey of over-65s in UK, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) said that nearly a quarter of elderly do not do muscle strengthening activities at all.
The internet age lifestyle is a big threat to our health. People are glued to their smartphones and reluctant to move. And they don’t have to leave home to get food or carry groceries!
This trend is worrying as we record more falls each day. Fall results in pain and injuries, and possibly death. A majority of hip fractures were suffered by elderly who fell, and it is costing the National Health Service around £1bn each year.
To prevent fall and stay healthy, NHS Choices1 recommends seniors who are generally fit and with no limiting health conditions to do:
- at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or walking every week
- strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)
The strength exercises that you can do at home or in the gym include:
- exercise with weights
- exercise with resistance bands
- exercises that uses your own body weight, such as push-ups and sit-ups
- vacuuming, digging and shovelling in the garden
- carrying heavy load such as shopping
Seniors who have not done any exercise before must get advice from their doctors first. You should also get help from a physiotherapist who will guide you through exercises that fit your physical conditions.