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Strength building can benefit seniors

Ask Bob

Ask Bob

August 27, 2009|By BOB POOR

Editor's note: This column originally ran in The Herald-Mail in February 2008. Bob Poor's regular Young at Heart column will return next month.

Q: I've been losing strength in my arms and legs over the last few years. Frankly, I am afraid I will fall and break a hip one of these days. I am not really interested in "pumping iron," but I hear strength training would really benefit me. Have you heard anything about specialized senior strength training in our area?

A: Having personally experienced some of the lost strength you mention, I did some research and discovered what the medical field calls sarcopenia. Beginning in the fourth decade of life, adults lose 3 percent to 5 percent of muscle mass per decade, a rate of decline that increases to 1 percent to 2 percent per year after age 50.

There are numerous underlying mechanisms behind sarcopenia, which collectively result in net muscle loss over time. Sarcopenia can occur in people who otherwise are free of disease.

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Fortunately for me, I ran into a program called "Freedom Through Functionality," a strength-building program designed especially for the older adult. It was developed based on many research studies that demonstrate the positive benefits strength-building activities can have for adults, even those who are particularly frail.

Also, fortunately for me, I found this program available right here in Hagerstown at Golden Living Center-Hagerstown (formerly Beverly Living Center) and was offered an opportunity to become the first nonresident to enroll.

What makes this program different is it offers an individualized exercise program that considers the normal effects of aging.

In twice-a-week half-hour sessions, I am instructed in the exercises and supervised by a trained physical therapist on Nautilus equipment designed for the older adult. All strength exercises are conducted sitting down.

Already, in just a few months, I am experiencing increased muscle strength, improved joint flexibility, improved body composition and much more endurance on my daily walks. Hopefully, this will extend to my ability to avoid the occurrence of falls, as well.

So there is an alternative for seniors who would prefer a specialized program in surroundings much quieter and much less crowded than the typical gymnasium. The on-site physical therapy staff also offers all levels of therapy to its residents.

If you would like more information on "Freedom Through Functionality" and a tour of the physical therapy facility at Golden Living Center-Hagerstown, call director Bill Boyer at 301-797-4020.

Hagerstown resident Robert A. "Bob" Poor is a member of the Society of Senior Advisers and provides senior professional services for reverse mortgages and personal insurance. He also is a member of the Senior Referral Center of Hagerstown. Questions are welcomed at r.poor@myactv.net or by mail c/o The Herald-Mail, P.O. Box 439, Hagerstown, MD 21741, ATTN: Robert A. Poor column.

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