Develop muscle strength 'for better quality of life in old age and to live longer'

Develop muscle strength 'for better quality of life in old age and to live longer'

Lifting weights is a contributing factor to a healthier life in old age and even living longer, according to a new study. Scientists at the University of Michigan have found that people with strong muscles are likely to outlive those who are weaker.

While it is a good idea to start building muscle while you’re young, the researchers urged the older generation to have a go too. They highlighted the benefits of workouts designed to increase muscle mass for the elderly.

The number of adults over the age of 65 living with a disability is rapidly increasing, which causes many difficulties when it comes to leading an independent lifestyle. While getting older is inevitable, there are things individuals can do to help reduce the effects of ageing.

Not only can the elderly be proactive, but those around them can also encourage activities that will help to build muscle mass. It’s best to start off with small amounts of exercise and relatively light weights, as both of these elements can be built up over time.

Dr Kate Duchowny, lead author of the study, said: “Maintaining muscle strength throughout life - and especially in later life - is extremely important for longevity and ageing independently.”

It may be surprising to many that the hands are an area that particularly require attention. Grip strength is an important measure of overall strength and something that is needed to accomplish many everyday tasks.

There aren’t a lot of workouts designed to focus on the hands, but this is something that needs to change. After all, without strength in the hands, dressing, cooking and cleaning are all difficult to undertake, leaving the elderly reliant on carers.

For the University of Michigan's Health and Retirement study, more than 8,300 individuals of both sexes had their grip strength analysed. Some 46 per cent were found to lie in the weak muscle category, highlighting how vital it is to maintain this area.

The researchers said that even after other variables were taken into consideration – such as smoking – survival times decreased in correlation to diminished muscle strength. Those with weak muscles were found to have a 50 per cent increased risk of early death compared to their stronger peers.

Dr Duchowny added: “Having hand grip strength [as] an integral part of routine care would allow for earlier interventions, which could lead to increased longevity and independence for individuals.”

Here are some easy exercises for older people to improve their hand strength. You can always do them alongside your relative, as it’s never too early to start improving your own muscle mass.

·         Make a fist and hold for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat four times with each hand.
·         Squeeze a soft ball in the palm of your hand as hard as you can and sustain for several seconds. Try to do this ten times a session and three times a week.
·         Use the same foam ball, but this time pinch it between the tips of your fingers and your thumb and hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
·         Put your palm flat on the table and lift each finger individually. Repeat 12 times.
·         Playing with clay is a great way to exercise your hands without even thinking about it.