As we age, both bone density and muscle mass decline. This not only reduces our ability to perform many everyday tasks - jumping, lifting, bending etc, it can also increase the chances of injury and osteoporosis (fragile bones).
This is commonly seen in many old people - they gradually become less and less able to remain independent, and many suffer falls and injuries to bones, particularly the hip.
Activities such as running can help offset the loss of bone density and muscle mass in the legs, but they do not have any effect on the upper body. As a result, experts are now recommending that older athletes include resistance training alongside their cardio sessions. Quite simply, there is no better way to maintain bone density and muscle mass than weight training.
A recent study compared aerobic only training with aerobic plus strength training on the skeletal and muscular health of people over the age of 55. They found that after four months of training, while the aerobic plus strength group had significantly increased muscle mass and bone density, the aerobic only group had not improved.
Of particular interest was the improvements in the density of the 'femoral neck' - this is the top of the thigh bone, which inserts into the hip. This is crucial for older individuals, as this area is a frequent site of fractures.
Previously, many people thought that weight training carried a risk for older people, but fortunately, more enlightened thinking now prevails, and it is widely recognised that it is not only safe, but desirable.
Quite simply, weight training stops these progressive losses, and the good news is that it doesn't matter how old you are. Recent research has shown that even people over the age of 80 can improve their muscles by participating in regular weight training workouts!