The importance of strength training for older workers
In the SSA program titled LifeSMART®, we address how older workers (45 years +?) can protect their safety and well-being. One Shield Yourself suggestion is for older workers to include strength training in their exercise programs. Beginning at age 20-25 there is a 5% loss of muscle mass (strength) per decade for physically inactive people. After age 60, that rate doubles; and after 70 it doubles again!
The penalty of lost strength?
– Less capacity for physically challenging activities.
– Once relatively easy tasks require effort at or near the limits of strength.
– More strain on the body when lifting, pushing, pulling, etc.
– Wear and tear on joints and soft tissue not getting needed muscle support.
– Poorer balance and the dangers for being so.
– Adding a big factor in general health decline.
Slowing and sometimes maintaining muscle mass and strength can be done through exercise. Granted, some people have physically demanding jobs that work muscles regularly. The problem is that specific jobs often work specific muscles while ignoring others. For most people some kind of regular, focused exercise is needed.
The “easiest” way of doing this is a regular strength development training routine with weights. The weight can be your own body (push-ups, knee-bends, etc.), free weights, exercise machines or elastic band resistance. The key is to work muscles until they become tired, not pained. This kind of healthy stress helps muscles grow and replenish.
Encourage MoveSMART® participants to make strength training part of their exercise routines. Be sure to advise them to check with their physician before launching any exercise program. A poorly designed exercise program may cause more problems than it cures.
This article emphasizes strength training, but aerobic and flexibility training is also an important part of anyone’s exercise routine. The tendency of older workers is to skip the strength training. Remind your participants that with a little extra attention they can maintain their strength, which in turn makes work easier while reducing stresses and strains.