When you think of getting older, what comes to mind? Getting weaker? Less able to do things on your own? Research consistently shows we can flip the script about what it means to ‘get older’. Although you cannot stop the years, being proactive about telling your muscles what you want them to be able to do can make a big difference. Specifically telling your body to keep your muscle power is one of the top ways to slow the aging process.
Muscle strength is the ability to move against gravity. Muscle power is the ability to use your strength quickly. Studies show muscle power declines earlier and more quickly with age compared to muscle strength. Your muscle power can predict how limited you will be as you grow older.
Power training has been shown to have a greater impact on bone strength and on functional activities like getting up from a chair and climbing stairs than traditional strength training. Considering weight loss can accelerate muscle and bone loss, this is especially important if you have lost weight. For anyone who has witnessed a loved one age, and struggle to get up from a chair or climb stairs, you can see how valuable it would be to keep your muscle power.
How do you build and keep your muscle power? If images of Olympic powerlifting come to mind, don’t worry, this is not what I am talking about. Power training is when you do strength training exercises with controlled speed when going against gravity and slow speed with gravity. For example, if you are doing a squat go slow on the way down and quick on the way up.. You can do this with any strength exercise such as on weight machines or with free weights. However, functional exercises that mimic movements of daily life work best, because they will have the best transfer to your ability to do things like get up from a chair or lift something overhead.
Use a light level of resistance to start because this takes more energy and focus. Once it is easier to do the movement with speed, progress to a moderate level of resistance. You don’t need as much resistance to build power as you do to build strength, so this is a great option if you do not have or don’t want to lift heavier weights. Add a power set only after you have built the muscle memory for doing an exercise with light weights and slow speed first. The power set takes more mental focus, so be sure to turn off any distractions, like the TV, so you get the most from what you are doing.
Building and keeping your muscle power adds a bit of certainty to an especially uncertain stage of life. Keep moving by telling your muscles you want them to stay strong and powerful for as long as possible and enjoy the confidence that comes from knowing you are slowing the aging process.
Keep Moving, Be Well
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Daly RM, Dalla Via J, Duckham RL, Fraser SF, Helge EW. Exercise for the prevention of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women: an evidence-based guide to the optimal prescription. Braz J Phys Ther. 2019;23(2):170-180. doi:10.1016/j.bjpt.2018.11.011