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Seniors Strength and Flexibility

The Importance of Strength and Flexibility in Older Adults

Regular aerobic activity – such as walking, biking, or swimming – is an extremely important habit to maintain, especially as people age. But the importance of regularly participating in muscle-strengthening activities as well as maintaining flexibility shouldn’t be overlooked. Older adults experience increased stiffness in joints and arthritis, but after age 65 muscle mass loss increases – even in active adults – and the primary treatment is strength training. What’s more, according to a study done through the U.S. National Health Interview Survey, people 65 and older who did strength training two times a week lowered their odds of dying from any cause by half.

So how much and what type of strength training do older adults need? Twice a week should be the minimum. For an activity to count as muscle-strengthening, it has to be done to the point where it’s difficult to do another repetition of the movement. Strength training should work on all of the major muscle groups – legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms. Some types of strengthening activities are:

  • Body-weight exercises, such as push ups, sit ups, and lunges
  • Resistance band exercises
  • Weight lifting
  • Heavy gardening (digging, bending, shoveling)
  • Yoga (which is also great for flexibility)

What about flexibility exercises? The great thing about maintaining flexibility, which is essentially stretching, is that it can be done almost anywhere and any time. Stretching is recommended after any physical activity, when the muscles are warm, but it can be done at any time. Ideally, stretching should be done each day, and each stretch should be held for 15 to 30 seconds. All of the major muscle groups should be stretched, along with the neck, ankles, and wrists.

Even with consistent muscle-strengthening and stretching activities, bone, joint, and muscle issues can still arise. El Camino Hospital’s orthopedic team offer the highest level of care and specialized treatment for every major joint, as well as services to help keep bones healthy. To find a physician or get a referral, click here.

This article first appeared in the August 2016 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.

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