John Bruno Strength and Conditioning

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Strength Training and Its Benefits into the Golden Years

Strength training is probably the most beneficial fitness activity for people as they get older. The value of strength training in older populations has been severely understated in the literature until most recently where we see more research and understanding of the inherent benefit come to light. Cardiorespiratory training, although essential, has been overstated as the preferred exercise modality for older people. However, in recent years, the value of strength training in older populations is making more of an influence in the fitness world, as it should, as it is probably more important than anything else older adults can do. After all, what are the “symptoms” of aging? How does one get old? What happens to the body?

Fighting the Forces of Feebleness

For the most part, we are looking at a loss of muscle and related loss of strength. This muscle loss is the beginning of the downward spiral. In the early 2000s, one of my 70-year-old friends, a former professor, mentor, and avid weightlifting enthusiast for most of his life, James Adovasio, Ph.D., would refer to strength training as “fighting the forces of feebleness.” This humorous maxim could not be more true Sarcopenia of aging is the condition of age-related muscle loss/wasting. This muscle wasting truly is what makes us old. I have stated many times, “you do not catch your balance when you trip on the stairs with cardiorespiratory fitness… you catch your balance with strength.” This expression comes from attempts to emphasize the importance of strength training for older adults. It also sheds light on the overemphasis of cardiorespiratory exercise, including walking. I am not against cardiorespiratory training and walking for any age group, including the elderly. However, if time is a major constraint (as it is with all of my retired elderly clients…yes this is sarcasm) and a person could only choose between one or the other, I would enthusiastically advise them to do the strength training and take away the cardio. Strength training genuinely helps cardiorespiratory fitness, whereas cardiorespiratory training does nothing to improve strength.

The National Health Interview Survey of the CDC collected data via survey between 1997-2001 spanning all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The survey looked at more than 30,000 adults over the age of 65. The data shows that older adults performing strength training at least twice per week lived longer and had far more strength than their sedentary counterparts. With time, the body faces a host of challenges that lifestyle and proper care plans address.

A properly designed strength training program has many benefits beyond developing strength and balance. In addition to managing arthritis symptoms, strength training benefits anyone looking to improve their metabolism later into adulthood. The mental health improvements from strength training are invaluable. The hormones released following a strength training session have displayed the ability to effectively repair the brain in cases of specific types of dementia.  Additionally, speeding up recovery from physical activities is another way strength training shows promise as an excellent tool for an active lifestyle and added liveliness.

(If you would like to have a consultation with or a program designed by a consultation with a Sarasota-based personal trainer, click here. Our Sarasota-based personal trainers and strength coaches can craft custom programming for each individual based on their specific needs and medical/injury history.)

Strength training happens to be an activity that brings numerous benefits that include:

  • Better management of a healthy body weight
  • Health improvements even beyond strength and physical function
  • Manage chronic issues associated with obesity, arthritis, and heart disease
  • Preserving independence and vitality through better functional mobility
  • It can slow, reverse, and/or prevent bone loss due to osteoporosis
  • Reduces risk of falling by improving balance and the ability to stop or change directions
  • Increases independence through far less reliance on others
  • Resilience and resistance to injury and disease
  • Better cognitive function
  • Better hormonal profile and sex drive
  • Self-confidence
  • Improves sleep patterns
  • Better mental health; helps with depression and other issues

Current estimates put the number of adults experiencing bone loss and osteoporosis at 200 million! It’s a good thing that there are ways to fight off the loss of bone density, and one of the most well-rated is strength training. It is true that men and women indeed lose bone mass as they age. Resistance training loads the musculoskeletal system better than anything else. It causes the body to adapt by adding density to bones and strength to muscle.  I have had several clients (women in their 60’s) reverse osteoporosis during their training with me (going from osteoporosis to osteopenia, with and without medication). I also had one client with osteopenia reverse that back to healthy bone density. Others were not osteoporotic but showed increases in bone density between tests. Outside of my own experience with my clients, the benefits of strength training for osteoporosis are well-documented.

With that said, many people are enjoying vibrant and fruitful lives well after the age of 60. It isn’t just the hardcore athletes or those under 30 who can benefit from strength training. It surprises me that not everyone is aging gracefully when the solution is right there for them… they only need to participate.

(If you would like to have a consultation with or a program designed by a consultation with a Sarasota-based personal trainer, click here. Our Sarasota-based personal trainers and strength coaches can write custom programming for each individual based on their specific needs and medical/injury history.)

Improve Life Quality with Strength Training

Strength training can not only improve your physique, but even older participants experience an improved quality of life. The strength developed from lifting weights and resistance training can build muscle power and provide better stabilization strength which means stability walking and standing, which means decreased risk of falling. Normal life functions that require lifting, turning, kneeling can all benefit from strength training. A trip to the grocery store is more manageable when grocery bags don’t feel like carrying piles of stones. No one who strength-trains finds groceries to be heavy.

The benefits to cardiovascular health are also noteworthy. Longevity and life enhancement from strength training can mean more balance through a correctly programmed training plan. Improved functional capacity is just one enhancement that older adults enjoy when strength training. Sarcopenia, or a loss in muscle mass, is commonplace as we age. Because of this loss of muscle, many people experience a loss in total power, speed, and mobility. The risk of falling, turning into an actual fall, can become a full-blown hospital visit due to fractures and breaks. Resistance training can help preserve muscle mass and bone density, making a more resilient body and improving life quality overall. Also, reductions in pain, improvement in general health, and better overall physical function are on record as providing improved life quality.

Weight Management Can be Difficult Later in Life

As we age, the body tends to manage weight differently. Torching calories and shedding excess pounds can be tough to do. There are several reasons this can happen that range from hormones to lifestyle shifts. When mobility, strength, and balance are declining, activity tends to follow suit. Even recreational pastimes can feel less like fun and much more like hard labor. This difficulty leads to inactivity that may reduce overall health.

Changes in the body with age can include decreased testosterone in men, reduced bone density, and even polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in women. PCOS is a common cause of infertility and affects as many as five million women in the USA. As female hormones decline and insulin sensitivity decreases, women tend to retain more weight. Heart disease, diabetes, and uterine cancer are just some of the side effects associated with PCOS. An age-related drop in activity levels paired with this kind of hormonal change is a combination that often leads to obesity.

Strength training can delay and even reverse some of the declines that older adults experience in total strength. Dedication to a plan that includes progressive resistance training can build muscle mass regardless of age. As you age, you need a lifestyle and diet that supports your longevity, and exercise is a vital piece of that. Moving well and with minimal pain is part of what allows someone to do things consistently. Infrequent exercise won’t produce the lasting weight management benefits of a steady plan.

(If you would like to have a consultation with or a program designed by a consultation with a Sarasota based personal trainer, click here. Our Sarasota based personal trainers and strength coaches can write custom programming for each individual based on their specific needs and medical/injury history.)

Training Improves More than Athletic Performance

Older adults can find it burdensome to practice routine self-care duties. Getting up from the couch in a stable position is genuinely an expression of physical ability and athleticism. It might not seem like much until it is a skill that has become lost and only a memory. Strength training can develop not only muscle strength but total body physical power. The ability to move well is equivalent to the skill of safe movement. Navigating the kitchen or a potentially hazardous bathroom floor is much more manageable for older adults who do strength training regularly. Resistance training produces measurable results at two or more days per week while three to four days is optimal. Varied movements which incorporate all major muscle groups can lead to routine chores being effortless and safer than they otherwise would be in the absence of strength training. A properly designed program will allow for maximal effect and safety.

Even without spending hours per day lifting weights, some benefits can improve strength in 20-30 minutes per session. Strength training with proper technique at the appropriate load can mean less fatigue doing the things you enjoy. A day of yard work can feel a bit more like it used to instead of leaving you exhausted and aching for days. Simple workouts with varied movements can simulate the kind of challenges your body deals with regularly. Things like lunges, squats, or pushups and rows help recruit more muscle in the human movement system.

There is more research than ever that strength training helps counter the progression of dementia in older people. Not only will training sharpen thinking skills, but it can also improve problem-solving and the ability to continue to learn as we age. Balance and muscle tone can continue to improve with time, and it all begins with a well-structured training plan. Deciding to approach a progressive training plan allows for continued growth and a safe challenge. Community centers for people of even more advanced age (60+) illustrate that physical activity can extend beyond the days of recreational shuffleboard.

With the numerous benefits of strength training, it’s no wonder that many choose to start a routine of their own to improve their lives. The health benefits that include combating obesity, bone loss, and diminished muscle mass are just a portion of the value that getting fitter at any age brings into your life. The persistence of time ensures that people age, though whether we age like a fine wine or spoil and fizzle out is sometimes tied to our choices.

The adage bears repeating that health is wealth. There is indeed no investment quite like the one into your health. Strength, balance, cognitive function, insulin sensitivity, and coordination can still improve later in life. And strength training positively affects them all. There is a peace of mind that comes with being fit to lead a life you will enjoy.

(If you would like to have a consultation with or a program designed by a consultation with a Sarasota based personal trainer, click here. Our Sarasota based personal trainers and strength coaches can write custom programming for each individual based on their specific needs and medical/injury history.)

Thanks for taking the time to read this article we prepared for you.

Best Regards,


John J. Bruno, MS, CSCS, PES, CSS, FMS, USAW

Master’s degree in Exercise Science – Concentration in Performance Enhancement and Injury Prevention

NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

USA Weightlifting Level 1 Sports Performance Coach

Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certified Nutrition Coach

AIS Active Isolated Stretching Practitioner Aaron Mattes Method

NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist

FMS Functional Movement Screening Specialist (Level II)

NASE Certified Speed Specialist

RKC Certified Kettlebell Lifting Instructor

AKC Certified Kettlebell Lifting Coach

Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Certified Associate Grappling Instructor, Harris International

Certified Apprentice L5 Jeet Kune Do, French, Filipino, and Indonesian Martial Arts Instructor

John Bruno Strength and Conditioning

Personal Training

Martial Arts

Nutrition Coaching

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