Why Older Adults Need to Train for Power

Filed under: General Health, Training

Training for power is imperative as we age. In fact it is the first thing we lose as we get older. However there is a bright side. This is a quality that can be retained from proper training, and being to maintain it or at least drastically slow down its loss our quality of life would improve drastically.

(this is a 68 year old CP client whom I had the privilege of training many times)

Lets back up for a second though and actually define power. Power is Force x Velocity.

In terms of exercise the force is your strength, so strength training will most definitely help you to maintain your power output. However people not only lose their strength, or ability to produce force, they lose their ability to produce this force with any type of explosiveness, or velocity.

These combined losses drastically reduce our power output and reaction time as we age, and we lose our athleticism and ability to perform previously simple daily tasks. I don’t know about you, but I want to be able to run around with my grandkids. While this is certainly many years (a few decades really) away for me, I still think it is important to train these factors.

Not only would training for power improve athleticism and ability to perform activities of daily living, it has also been shown to prevent sarcopenia, the age-related loss of skeletal muscle. This is another factor in our ability to function well, as maintenance of fat free mass and bone density will tremendously improve quality of life as we age.

So training for power sounds great, but how do you do it? Well that all depends on how old you are and how well trained you are, but some simple examples would be trying to lift more explosively (though safely and with good form), medicine ball work, box jumps, band resisted broad jumps and other low-force plyometrics along with a sound strength-training program and an adequate diet. Hiring a qualified professional, even just for a limited time, can help to teach you ways to maximize your power and age more gracefully.

I would also be remiss not to point out that research has also shown that the elderly actually have higher protein needs than us young folks, and that consuming somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.2g/kg (or more) of bodyweight of protein can also help to prevent the dreaded sarcopenia.

In the end don’t just think that your power walks or yoga are going to be your golden ticket to optimal aging. They are two great tools, but they are not an entire toolbox, not even close. Proper strength and power training in conjunction with those two tools (or whatever cardiovascular-specific work you do) would be your best bet in the fight against aging and sarcopenia. Good luck!

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Posted on February 23rd, 2011 by Brian St. Pierre

2 Comments

  1. McB Says:

    Love this! Personally, I think “age-ism” is the last “ism” we need to break down. It wasn’t until a 75 year old couple took me under their collective wings in the gym, that I began to make serious gains. The older gym crowd has a lot to share in terms of wisdom, safety, long-term perspective, etc. And I want to be there when I’m 75, passing on what I’ve got to share.

  2. Jill B Says:

    This is such an important topic. My grandfather is in his late 80′s and in a nursing facility. It is frightening how many folks are in there, in their 60′s-70′s, that can’t physically move themselves. In most cases, it is not because of injury or trauma…they simply don’t have the strength to get themselves out of a chair and on their feet. Let me tell you…if you get labeled a fall risk because you are unable to move your body, you get summoned to a wheelchair, which makes for a gloomy long-term outcome. Strength is imperative.

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