Declining muscle mass and strength are an inevitable part of ageing, with studies showing a drop of anywhere between 16.6% and 40.9% after the age of 40. The reason? ‘Our bodies become less efficient at making key hormones responsible for bodily functions like muscle maintenance, which is why a regular strength training routine is important.’
A combination of good nutrition with strength training ensures hormones function at an optimal level, which in turn, helps to keep those muscles strong. ‘When you train, your body responds by regulating the release of hormones and your insulin levels become more stable, which helps regulate blood sugar and prompts a reaction in the body that slows the effects of ageing,’ explains Addison. In other words, if want to stay independent as you age, you mustn’t limit yourself to cardio exercises such as walking, swimming and/or cycling. Your muscles need challenging to do their job properly!
‘That said, any movement is great’, says Addison. If you’re new to exercise or in a sedentary job which means you’re especially inactive then start with a daily walk. ‘Aim to build up to 30 minutes of continuous walking every day.’ But if you’re already walking, swimming and cycling it’s time to incorporate strength training into your routine. ‘Strength training forces your muscles to apply force to move a load. This puts pressure on the bones, which adapt by absorbing minerals more effectively and becoming denser. If your routine involves weights and you normally complete two sets of 20 squats, try to complete 5-10 reps with a heavier weight,’ she adds.
Don’t be alarmed, though - weights aren’t an essential part of strength training. If you’re struggling with activities of daily living (ADLS), such as stair climbing, floor pick-ups or posture, the simple exercises, below, could be a lifesaver. Just remember – use it or you’ll lose it!
Sprint up stairs with step ups
- Stand directly behind the step in front of you (use the stairs at home)
- Place one foot on the step, with the whole foot (including heel) firmly on the step.
- Drive through the heel, using your arms to help power you up so you’re standing tall on the step. Squeeze your bottom at the top.
- Slowly lower yourself back to the floor and repeat on the same leg.
- Complete 15 repetitions, then repeat on the other leg.
Floor pick ups with a backward stepping lunge
Stand tall with chest openers
- Stand tall with one foot in front of the other.
- Lift your arms directly out to your sides at shoulder height. Try to keep your arms straight.
- Bring arms towards the centre of the body and clap your hands in front of you.
- Take your arms back to the start position until you feel a stretch in your chest. Complete 20+ repetitions.
- Keep your palms facing forward at all times.