Strength Training for Seniors: Persistence

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Rob and Patsi Krakoff strength training together

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Each year, my understanding of strength training for the elderly evolves. In the sixteen years since becoming a senior, I’ve gained daily insights into exercise and fitness. Initially, my focus on strength training was driven by a desire to maintain a youthful appearance. However, my current approach is centered on health and mitigating the inevitable muscle loss that comes with age.

Aging presents its own set of challenges, with each year bringing changes in maintaining various health aspects. While regaining the lean, muscular physique of youth would be ideal, the truth is that muscle mass diminishes with age, even for those who remain active. Nonetheless, engaging in strength training is beneficial to curb this decline.

Strength Training Amidst Weakness or Sickness

My husband, a lifelong athlete, used to train to preserve his strength and competitive edge in sports. Now, as he undergoes chemotherapy, his exercise routine is more subdued, aimed at reducing strength loss—a goal that will serve him well once he reaches remission.

In our book “War on Aging,” written a few years back, we discussed how prioritizing fitness can help seniors defy their age and avoid many chronic illnesses associated with getting older. Being in good shape can significantly influence the severity of a disease and aid in faster recovery or remission. This has been particularly true for Rob’s battle with multiple myeloma, as his cancer indicators are now approaching normal levels, and we’re hopeful for remission.

Returning to the Fundamentals of Strength Training

Recently, I revisited the 2006 book “Strength Training for Seniors: How to Rewind Your Biological Clock” by Canadian fitness expert Micheal Fekete. The book encompasses the importance of exercise for graceful aging, lifestyle considerations, motivational aspects, and practical guidance for transitioning from novice to proficient fitness levels. Here’s a summary of the book’s message:

Engaging in regular exercise can shave 10 to 20 years off one’s biological age, with strength maintenance and enhancement being crucial. Improved strength not only bolsters the immune system but also wards off diseases like diabetes and osteoporosis, reduces stress, and sharpens mental clarity. Authored by an accomplished athlete over 50, the book provides targeted exercises, mobility and motor skill maintenance tips, dietary recommendations, stress management strategies, and personalized strength training plans.

Although 2006 may not seem too distant, in today’s fast-paced, trend-driven social media landscape, it feels like a bygone era. Yet, the book’s content remains timeless, offering foundational knowledge suitable for individuals of all ages, devoid of contemporary buzzwords and focusing instead on scientific facts, inspiring stories of aging individuals, and illustrative guidance for achieving overall fitness.

Revised Perspectives on Strength Training

My journey with strength training as a senior hasn’t followed a linear progression. If one were to chart my fitness trajectory, it would resemble the jagged peaks of shark teeth, with highs and lows representing periods of surgeries, recovery, illnesses, pandemic constraints, travel, relocations, and my beloved husband’s hospital stays. Sometimes the path is rough, like shark’s teeth, and other times it’s smoother, but it’s always forward-moving.

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