The best reverse aging exercises are resistance training. It’s been proven by recent study after study: resistance training helps reverse age and fight against a number of diseases and conditions.
Depending on your age and condition, you may want to moderate how intensely you begin a program. And you may want to avoid certain movements that challenge your balance or conditions like arthritis. But otherwise, us older folks are no different than anybody else when it comes to choosing the best exercises.
Resistance Training in our view is a very controlled and careful type of exercise. We’re not talking about Cross Fit or flipping giant tractor tires here. This is about controlled movements under a moderate amount of resistance — not ‘insanity’ or other hardcore fitness regimes.
The Fountain of Youth
A report published by Dr. Len Kravitz of the University of New Mexico demonstrates how resistance training can actually reverse aging at the genetic level.
In that study, all of the older adult subjects (mean age 68) performed supervised resistance training exercises on two non-consecutive days of the week for 26 weeks. The group included both people who did not exercise at all and those who regularly did some form of exercise.
They did 12 different exercises that addressed the entire body:
- Chest Press
- Leg Press
- Leg Extension
- Leg Flexion
- Shoulder Press
- Lat Pulldown
- Seated Row
- Calf Raise
- Abdominal Crunch
- Back Extension
- Biceps Curl
- Triceps Extension
Lighter Weights, Higher Reps
They also used a method similar to the one we promote here at BoomerMuscle. Lighter weight with higher reps with 3 sets per exercise (we say 3 – 5 sets). We encourage finding the ideal amount of resistance that takes you to muscle failure after 8 – 12 repetitions. By failure, we don’t mean passing out; simply getting to a point where another rep done without cheating isn’t possible.
In the genetic study, subjects began by doing just one of each exercise at 50% of their one-rep maximum resistance. They gradually increased to 3 sets at 80% of their one-rep max.
This post will give you more perspective on the benefits of lifting light weights vs. heavy weights. You can also do a workout with a wide variety of equipment. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to do resistance training. For even more on how to structure a workout, check out our category Workout Guides in the main menu. There are several how-to posts there.
“Strength Training for Older Adults” by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is a nice compilation of tips for older seniors. The link will take you to a downloadable pdf file** that includes recommended exercises with how-to diagrams. If you’d like to see more information on the science-backed benefits of resistance training, please see this post.
Exercise even reverses aging of our skin!
In addition to all the benefits at a genetic level, a recent study by McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, found that exercise can take decades of aging off our skin.
Here are some additional tips for older adults beginning a resistance training program. These are taken directly from the UNM genetic study noted earlier:
“The following are 10 helpful training guidelines when working with mature exercisers.
1) Teaching correct lifting mechanics should be a priority with all personal trainers working with mature clients.
2) Many older individuals do not understand the concept of progressive overload, and must be educated and directed properly.
3) Always have clients perform exercises in a “pain-free” range of motion with controlled joint movements.
4) Keep breathing patterns normal during resistance exercises. Encourage the client to exhale during the more challenging part of the exercise. For instance, when doing a squat, inhale on the descent of the squat and exhale on the assent against gravity. Breath holding during resistance exercise may elevate intra thoracic pressures dangerously high, placing undue stress on the heart.
5) Begin resistance training programs with minimal training loads to allow adequate time for the joint(s) and associated connective tissues to adjust to the loads.
6) Avoid excessive resistance training loads or repetition of loads as this may aggravate a pre-existing health condition. Clients with arthritis and other joint and bone disorders should not be advised to do resistance during periods of pain or inflammation.
7) Since eccentric training (lengthening muscle actions) has been shown to result in greater muscle soreness, the use of eccentric training in mature populations should be done with carefulness.
8) When re-starting a resistance training regimen from a break or leave of absence, have clients begin with loads that are approximately 50% or less of the previous training intensity.
9) To help mature clients develop better balance and muscle coordination, perform several exercise in a standing position with free weights and other exercise props, such as medicine balls.
10) Plan workout time efficiently for the mature client. Sessions lasting over 60 minutes may be too fatiguing. In addition, training sessions that are too long may be disadvantageous to overall exercise adherence”
** NOTE: The link to the CDC pdf file has been a bit temperamental on some browsers. If you encounter a problem, type the title of the document noted above and CDC into a search engine. That should take you right to it. Sorry if you are having issues.
What are your thoughts on exercises for older adults? Have you tried resistance training? Please share below. I’ll also be glad to help you if I can. Write me at: Brian@BoomerMuscle.com