Studies show that once the average person hits 40 years of age, unless they are regularly completing weight training and resistance exercises, they begin losing muscle mass at a rate of 5% per decade, increasing as they get closer to 80. Reduced muscle mass means less mobility and greater weakness, which causes a heightened likelihood of falls and a greater risk of falls causing severe injury.
Each year, there are 37.3 million falls that are severe enough to require medical attention. Globally, an estimated 684,000 people die from a fall, making it the second most common cause of accidental injury related death, and people over 60 years of age suffer the greatest number of fatal falls. Injuries resulting from falls often lead to a loss of independence, whether that be relying on a cane or mobility tool, visits from a specialised carer, or being unable to continue living at home.
While a walk around the block is great for getting fresh air, the experts say it is not enough to have a real impact on your muscle mass or improve your overall health and mortality.
The best way to maintain muscle mass is to eat a low fat, high protein diet and exercise regularly, with a particular emphasis on weightlifting and resistance training. The personal trainers at iGym can assist with nutrition advice and a personalised fitness plan aligned to your fitness goals. They can also provide general guidance and assistance with form to ensure you are performing the movements correctly and safely.
In a startling survey from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, it was found that, prior to participating, only 22.1% of subjects aged 55-64 engaged in strength training exercise. It is iGym’s goal to improve the number of older Australian’s regularly using strength and resistance training to improve their lifespans, and the quality of their lives.
Harvard Health Publishing recommends following a progressive resistance training (PRT) program and “enlist[ing] a well-qualified personal trainer to help set up a detailed sequence and supervise your initial workouts to ensure you perform them safely and in the best manner.” PRT programs require 2-3 workouts per week, consisting of 8-10 exercises in sets of 12-15 reps. The article also quotes Dr Robert Schreiber, physician-in-chief at Hebrew SeniorLife and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. Dr Schreiber states “just doing aerobic exercise is not adequate. Unless you are doing strength training, you will become weaker and less functional.”
Similarly, Tufts University professor Roger Fielding, PHD, recommends combining aerobic exercise with resistance training to help with balance and cardiovascular health. When discussing his work with clients aged 60 years and over, he states that their “major concern is losing their independence, which often follows a fall. “They want to feel they’re not near using a cane or a walker or being stuck in a wheelchair,” he says. “The more we train, the further we get from that.”
Fielding also recommends working with health and fitness professionals to find a plan that works for you, and that you enjoy. “People have to find things they like to do and want to do and are able to do consistently” he says.
In addition to improving muscle mass, strength training exercise lowers your risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and many other conditions that can impact your lifespan and your quality of life.
If you are unsure where to start, book an initial consultation with a personal trainer for expert advice tailored to your needs. Group fitness classes are also a great option for those who may require some more motivation and prefer a social setting for their fitness. Our classes are appropriate for all age groups and are supervised by trained instructors who are always more than happy to answer any questions you may have.
2 World Health Organisation – https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/falls
3 Harvard Health Publishing – https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/preserve-your-muscle-mass#:~:text=After%20age%2030%2C%20you%20begin,risk%20of%20falls%20and%20fractures.
4 WebMD – https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/news/20220831/how-strength-training-can-help-you-live-longer