You probably know someone who’s fallen and broken a hip. You may not know that it’s not just the elderly who fall, or break their hips. All seniors are at risk. The risk doubles every five years after you turn 50. Nine out of 10 hip fractures happen to people over 60. And more than 25 percent of those people will develop complications and die within a year.1
No matter what your age or level of fitness, you can take a few simple steps – right away – to keep this from happening to you. A new study tells a revealing story. Turns out, the signals to your muscles start to slow down as you get older, making it harder for your muscles to respond.
Researchers at the University of Delaware looked at how muscles respond when the cells that activate them, called neurons, send out electrical signals for the muscles to move.
They found that in the elderly, not only do muscles respond more slowly, but neurons actually fire less frequently. At first glance this seems to confirm the conventional wisdom that slowing down physically is an inevitable consequence of aging but there’s more…
The researchers discovered that strength training significantly improves both neuron and muscle response.2 In other words, you can “turn back the clock” on this particular feature of aging to help keep your mobility as you age. Strength training builds up the so-called “fast-twitch” muscles, the kind that gave our ancestors the sudden, explosive power they needed to capture prey or escape from danger.
These same muscles – and the neurons that activate them – are responsible not only for power, but for coordination, balance, and sudden response. Someone going up the stairs with a lot of this kind of muscle is simply less likely to fall. And here’s what the Delaware study proved: This is true no matter how old you are!
Other studies show that leg strength is the number-one predictor of how active, healthy and mobile you’ll stay as you get older.3 So here’s something you can do starting right now to boost the power in your legs and hips. It’s my favorite leg workout, and the only one I do every day.
They’re called “Hindu squats.”
1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
2. Extend your arms out in front of you, parallel to the ground with your hands open and palms facing down.
3. Inhale briskly and pull your hands straight back toward you as if you’re rowing.
4. As you pull back, turn the wrists up and make a fist.
5. At the end of the inhalation, your elbows should be behind you with both hands in a fist, palm side up.
6. From this position, exhale, bend your knees and squat.
7. Let your arms fall to your sides and touch the ground with the tips of your fingers.
8. Continue exhaling and let your arms swing up as you stand back up to the starting position.
9. Repeat at the pace of one repetition every four seconds. Once you are comfortable with the form, you can increase your speed to one squat per second. Repeat until you feel winded.
Rest, recover and do two more sets.
It’s important to keep in mind that increasing your strength – not doing “aerobics” or other endurance exercise – is what makes the difference. In fact, many long-duration exercises, like jogging or running, produce wear and tear, making your body more vulnerable to injury.
With more strength, you’ll do a lot more for yourself than avoid injury. You’ll also boost your immune system, elevate your mood, be more active, melt more fat, and even prevent chronic aches (like back pain).
One final note: If you think you’re too old to get these benefits, think again. Researchers at Tufts University’s Human Nutritional Research Center studied the effects of strength training on a group between the ages of 63 and 98. Most needed hearing aids or wheelchairs.
After just 10 weeks, these “elders” saw an increase in muscle strength, stamina and stability. Many were able to walk unaided by the end of the study.4
The fact is falling down the stairs (or anywhere else) doesn’t have to be a part of aging. You have to decide that you’re not going to take it lying down.
(From our exercise guru, Dr. Sears.)
1 “Hip Fractures In The Elderly,” A Place For Mom www.aplaceformom.com
2 Knight, Cristopher A. and Kamen, Gary,“Modulation of motor unit firing rates during a complex sinusoidal force task in young and older adults,” Journal of Applied Physiology 2007;102:122-129
3 Swallow, Elisabeth B., et al, “Quadriceps strength predicts mortality in patients with moderate to severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” Thorax 2007;62:115-120
4 Klatz, R., Hormones of Youth, American Academy of Anti-Aging, Chicago 1999;47–48