Muscle strength is an important component of any exercise program, particularly in the older population. Strength training is important for bone health, balance and being strong enough to complete daily activities such as climbing stairs or carrying groceries. It is particularly important for older adults as sarcopenia (or the loss of skeletal muscle with advancing age) can result in weakness, reduced activity levels, decreased bone mineral density, and an increased risk of falls or injury.
Strength training can also help manage conditions such as blood pressure, blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels as well as prevent and control heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Improvements in cognitive function and depressive symptoms in older adults have also been found as a result of regular strength training.
However, one of the most common reasons for lack of improvement in an individual’s program is lack of a progressive overload.
Progressive overload....What is it?
Progressive overload is a periodic increase in stress placed on the body during exercise. In order for adaptations to be made, such as increasing strength, muscle mass or fitness, the body must be forced to a stress level above and beyond what it has previously experienced. This can be done by manipulating the training variables - frequency, intensity, volume, rests, tempo and type of exercises.
Essentially, if you keep doing the same exercises, exactly the same way, day in and day out, you are unlikely to see any changes in your current level of strength and fitness. Your body will not see any reason for a change as it’s not being challenged.
Don’t be afraid of strength training and progressive overload.
Strength training has shown to be beneficial regardless of your age group. It’s not just for the young!
Strength training does not mean you will turn into the hulk. If your goal is to bulk up (or turn green - not one to judge) then there are certain training parameters specific to that goal. However, strength training can make muscles stronger, not necessarily bigger. Strength training also promotes fat free body mass assisting with weight management.
Progressive overload does not happen every session and does not have to be an extreme change (overload). Subtle changes to amount of repetitions completed, decreasing the time of rest periods and small increases in weight are examples of ways to progress a current exercise program.
Communication with your therapist is important. Let them know when an exercise has become too easy. This is a good thing! It shows improvement.
And if you don’t currently have one of our lovely team members helping you towards your goals then give us a call!
Your therapist will be able to design a strength program appropriate to you and your goals and ensure you are using the correct technique and level of resistance for your current level of fitness. They will also be able to guide you through progressing that program when you improve.
We now have a clinic gym space open in Elanora Heights all ready to help you put this blog into practice!