Fitness for Seniors - Falls Prevention

The latest research is changing how doctors look at muscle mass. It is no longer seen simply in terms of performance or vanity, muscle mass serves as the body's armour against several age-related diseases as well as heart problems and diabetes.

"Am I too old to lift weights?"

"As a Physiotherapist I spend a lot of my day trying to strengthen people up to fix pain related to poor muscle function" explains Richard Newton, one of the Physiotherapy team at Pindara Physiotherapy and Sports Medicine.

Most women are very aware of the possibility of Osteoporosis developing as they age. Osteoporosis increases your fracture risk...something to be avoided as fractures, as well as being very painful, can have catastrophic effects. 

Not as well-known are the effects of sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass as we age. Sarcopenia creeps up on you in small increments. Losses of up to 0.1 of a kg per year from ages 25 to 50 are common, and then it accelerates. The condition subsequently reduces your muscle mass by just under 0.5 of a kg of muscle a year, a loss you are unlikely to notice until it's too late.

Recent research shows that lowered muscle strength and mass are linked to declines in the immune system and the onset of heart disease and diabetes, not to mention weaker bones, stiffer joints, and slumping postures. Muscle mass has also been shown to play a central role in protein metabolism, which is particularly important in the response to stress, and decreased muscle mass correlates with a decline in overall metabolic rate.

Leg strength is critical in the maintenance of balance also. Falls can be prevented by keeping strong. Maintaining your leg strength and walking ability is also probably the key to staying out of the nursing home.

So am I too old to lift weights? "Never too old" says Richard Newton. "I have a number of patients in their 80's and one or two in their 90's on strength programs, including lifting weights, and seeing great benefits. These programs do need to be carefully designed to take into account any existing problems."