A local gym may need a new leg press machine - at least for Hal Noyes, who recently leg pressed 700 pounds - 200 pounds more than the total weight stack on the machine at Forever Fit.
Noyes, who celebrated his 70th birthday in December, completed 15 repetitions with his fitness coach, Mike McCannon, standing on the stack.
"The scary thing is, he can do more than that," said McCannon, who has worked with Noyes for two and half years, witnessing his determination and progress.
"It's been as much of a learning experience for me to see what an older person can do : It's very encouraging," McCannon said.
Noyes embraced his twice-a-week strength training routine after retiring from his former job as owner of an insurance company and moving to Steamboat Springs. He embarked on new adventures - receiving his real estate broker license and selling real estate - and saw weight training as another way to engage himself both physically and mentally.
His muscle weakness, bad posture and poor balance became apparent right away.
"It was amazing to me how much balance I'd lost and didn't even know it," Noyes said.
He focused on overcoming those limitations, aiming for small goals that have amounted to dramatic improvements.
On a recent day in the gym, Noyes sat in a seated, inclined position, pressing 55-pound dumbbells into the air with relative ease, prompting a chuckle from McCannon, who recalled Noyes' initial difficulty with the exercise.
"He was having a hard time with 8-pound dumbbells," McCannon said.
The results of Noyes' weight room routine - stronger muscles, better posture and improved balance - demonstrate why strength training is an important, if not vital, component of healthy aging.
Adults gradually lose muscle as they age, but experts contend much of that loss is from simply not using muscles.
"It's kind of that old adage, if you don't use it, you lose it," McCannon said. "But that's the neat thing about the older population especially - they think it's gone, but they can retrain to get it back."
Regularly performing exercises using resistance from weight machines, free weights, resistance bands, water or other sources, improves muscle strength and tone, increases metabolism for better weight control and increases bone density, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
These benefits translate into better flexibility and balance and, in turn, fewer falls, as well as reduced risk of fractures, particularly in post-menopausal women who typically lose 1 to 2 percent of their bone mass annually.
The CDC also notes, and studies show, strength training helps reduce pain in arthritic patients, improves glucose control in diabetics, helps lower risk of heart disease and also aids in the rehabilitation of cardiac patients.
Just as profound, but perhaps more difficult to measure, is the self-esteem boost a person can get from sticking to a regular strength training routine.
"There's a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction," Noyes said.
Unfortunately, he is among only about 11 percent of people 65 and older who strength train for two or more days a week, according to a 2004 CDC study.
The prospect of starting a strength training routine doesn't have to be overwhelming. Anybody at any age can take on the endeavor, though people with injuries or medical conditions should first check with their doctors regarding the type and amount of strength training that is best.
Most fitness facilities have coaches or trainers available to show individuals how to use equipment and the right exercises to reach their particular goals. Having a fitness coach can also make you more accountable to your routine, McCannon said.
He recommends individuals start gradually, set small goals and keep pushing themselves. Though they shouldn't expect result overnight, they may surprise themselves.
"I feel better just having made the effort," Noyes said.
Tamera Manzanares can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Strength training tips
- Warm up for five to 10 minutes before strength training by walking or using aerobic equipment. Stretch muscles after strength training.
- Do strength exercises for all major muscle groups at least twice a week without working same muscle groups two days in a row.
- Use a minimum of weight the first week and gradually add weight. Starting out with weights that are too heavy can cause injury.
- Aim to lift between eight and 15 repetitions.
- Take three seconds to lift or push a weight into place; hold the position for one second, and take another three seconds to lower the weight. Lower the weight slowly; don't let it drop.
- Breathe out as you lift or push, and breathe in as you relax.
- Avoid locking the joints in your arms and legs in a tightly straightened position.
- If you have injuries or have a medical condition, check with your doctor to determine the type and amount of strength training that is best.
- Strength training options outside the weight room include water aerobics, ballet, yoga, Pilates, walking and exercises using resistance bands or a stability ball.
- Sources: National Institute on Aging and AARP
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