What exercises help to increase muscle tone as we age?

Posted by johncottingham @johncottingham, Aug 26 2:07pm

At 83 my muscle tone is decreasing. Walking is helpful, but does not address all my muscles. Is there a good plan written from Mayo or others describing exercises my wife and I can use to restore muscle tone without doing damage?

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Hello @johncottingham – What a great question! The statistics on decreasing muscle tone in people as they age are alarming, and definitely contribute to falls and injuries, so it is great that you want to take action. Also, when your muscles are weaker, your balance can be affected, and even a short illness or hospital stay can make you weak enough to make recovery and rehab too difficult.

The first step is to check with your primary care provider, to ask if there are any exercises you should avoid due to your own physical conditions. Then, you can check with your insurance company to see if you are eligible for a local "Silver Sneakers" program, where all participants are of Medicare age, and programs are designed to accommodate some of the conditions that come with aging. Some communities also offer dedicated programs.

If you want to pursue a home program the two of you can do together, you can take a look at these examples.
Be sure your balance is as good as possible first:

Then begin some basic strengthening exercises that don't require a gym or special equipment:
https://www.silversneakers.com/blog/strength-training-for-seniors/
And basic Chair Yoga (this is a lot more challenging than it sounds):

Finally, if you want to do some (light) weight training:
https://www.livestrong.com/article/110562-dumbbell-exercises-seniors/
Do any of these ideas give you a place to start? I'll be very interested to hear what you choose to try.
Sue

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@sueinmn

Hello @johncottingham – What a great question! The statistics on decreasing muscle tone in people as they age are alarming, and definitely contribute to falls and injuries, so it is great that you want to take action. Also, when your muscles are weaker, your balance can be affected, and even a short illness or hospital stay can make you weak enough to make recovery and rehab too difficult.

The first step is to check with your primary care provider, to ask if there are any exercises you should avoid due to your own physical conditions. Then, you can check with your insurance company to see if you are eligible for a local "Silver Sneakers" program, where all participants are of Medicare age, and programs are designed to accommodate some of the conditions that come with aging. Some communities also offer dedicated programs.

If you want to pursue a home program the two of you can do together, you can take a look at these examples.
Be sure your balance is as good as possible first:

Then begin some basic strengthening exercises that don't require a gym or special equipment:
https://www.silversneakers.com/blog/strength-training-for-seniors/
And basic Chair Yoga (this is a lot more challenging than it sounds):

Finally, if you want to do some (light) weight training:
https://www.livestrong.com/article/110562-dumbbell-exercises-seniors/
Do any of these ideas give you a place to start? I'll be very interested to hear what you choose to try.
Sue

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Thank you so much for this 💖

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I agree with @sueinmn. This is a great question. @johncottingham I hope you don't mind, but I made your question the title of the discussion to gather more input from fellow members.

I'm visiting my mom right now. She's 82 and recently started a low impact version of a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) program that my husband and I do. She was always a walker and uses trekking poles. But we (and she) noticed an increasing sloping of the shoulders and muscle loss. I can tell you in just a few short months of adding light weights and body weight exercises to her walking, her body shape has changed. She stands straighter and her shoulders have muscle and the shape of a 60 year old (in my opinion).

Here's a video with Mayo Clinic's Dr. Nathan LeBrasseur discussing muscle loss during the aging process and also looks at strategies and therapies to maintain muscle health. I like the way that he emphasizes activity and avoids the word "exercise". That is a tough pill for some to swallow. So grab an activity you like to do. You'll do it more often and with joy. Find a buddy to do it with.

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Thanks for starting this discussion @johncottingham. I have been on the decline for awhile in the muscle and strength category and it is a little alarming when you struggle to pick up a 40 lb bag that you used to be able to carry 2 at a time. I know those days are long gone at 79 but I would like them to go a little slower. Here are a few articles I found from Mayo Clinic.

— Slowing or reversing muscle loss: https://www.mayoclinic.org/medical-professionals/physical-medicine-rehabilitation/news/slowing-or-reversing-muscle-loss/mac-20431104
— Eating and exercise: 5 tips to maximize your workouts: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20045506

Another good resource I've found is the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal – https://www.mcmasteroptimalaging.org/.

I purchased a Teeter FitForm Home Gym (https://teeter.com/fitform/) that doesn't take up much room and one that you can target most all of your muscles easily. What I love about it is that they have an app for your mobile device that walks you through each of the different exercises. Now all I have to do is make it part of a daily/weekly routine which is sometimes a problem for me.

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Great discussion- I'd further like to add that researchers have found that people older than 50 can not only maintain but actually increase their muscle mass by lifting weights. I suggest if you can, go to a reputable gym and take lessons, private or otherwise. I love weights along with other exercises. Even body weight is great, and works.

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@colleenyoung

I agree with @sueinmn. This is a great question. @johncottingham I hope you don't mind, but I made your question the title of the discussion to gather more input from fellow members.

I'm visiting my mom right now. She's 82 and recently started a low impact version of a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) program that my husband and I do. She was always a walker and uses trekking poles. But we (and she) noticed an increasing sloping of the shoulders and muscle loss. I can tell you in just a few short months of adding light weights and body weight exercises to her walking, her body shape has changed. She stands straighter and her shoulders have muscle and the shape of a 60 year old (in my opinion).

Here's a video with Mayo Clinic's Dr. Nathan LeBrasseur discussing muscle loss during the aging process and also looks at strategies and therapies to maintain muscle health. I like the way that he emphasizes activity and avoids the word "exercise". That is a tough pill for some to swallow. So grab an activity you like to do. You'll do it more often and with joy. Find a buddy to do it with.

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So interesting, thank you so much for posting this.

REPLY
@colleenyoung

I agree with @sueinmn. This is a great question. @johncottingham I hope you don't mind, but I made your question the title of the discussion to gather more input from fellow members.

I'm visiting my mom right now. She's 82 and recently started a low impact version of a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) program that my husband and I do. She was always a walker and uses trekking poles. But we (and she) noticed an increasing sloping of the shoulders and muscle loss. I can tell you in just a few short months of adding light weights and body weight exercises to her walking, her body shape has changed. She stands straighter and her shoulders have muscle and the shape of a 60 year old (in my opinion).

Here's a video with Mayo Clinic's Dr. Nathan LeBrasseur discussing muscle loss during the aging process and also looks at strategies and therapies to maintain muscle health. I like the way that he emphasizes activity and avoids the word "exercise". That is a tough pill for some to swallow. So grab an activity you like to do. You'll do it more often and with joy. Find a buddy to do it with.

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THANK YOU for this video. I am 57 and have systemic circulation problems decades beyond my chronological age so I do not fit in all the age related categories literally every resource refers to. This has made it difficult to understand, find support and resources to help.

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@merpreb

Great discussion- I'd further like to add that researchers have found that people older than 50 can not only maintain but actually increase their muscle mass by lifting weights. I suggest if you can, go to a reputable gym and take lessons, private or otherwise. I love weights along with other exercises. Even body weight is great, and works.

Jump to this post

@merpreb

I agree with @merpreb about going to a reputable gym.
If you can drive, I strongly suggest joining a senior exercise class that focuses on balance, strength training and stretching for older people. So many of us have secondary insurances that allows you to have a free Silver Sneakers type of membership.

While exercising at home is great, most of us need a disciplined approach and having to go to regular gym classes with people in the same age group is both motivating and a big plus social wise. I’m 81 and I do walk almost daily and have some routines I do at home it I know I would not be the way I am today if I had not started senior gym classes 8 years ago. I am strong and healthy and have made some great friends over the years from attending these classes. Our gym instructor is a fantastic 82 years young who still teaches core classes and has balance classes on weekends in addition to my class. My gym also has chair yoga and other classes geared to an older population.

We all have the same aliments and vagaries of age and so does our gym instructor who has had three shoulder surgeries. So I suggest investigating nearby gyms to check out what they offer and find out who actually gives the class. And then…ladies…get some cute gym clothes and tie up sneakers. Looking good makes you feel good. You guys too…don’t go to the gym with slip on shoes, long pants and belts. Get some loose flexible tops and shorts and pay the money for good sneakers.
And then…do what you can do and get addicted to it.

FL Mary

REPLY
@imallears

@merpreb

I agree with @merpreb about going to a reputable gym.
If you can drive, I strongly suggest joining a senior exercise class that focuses on balance, strength training and stretching for older people. So many of us have secondary insurances that allows you to have a free Silver Sneakers type of membership.

While exercising at home is great, most of us need a disciplined approach and having to go to regular gym classes with people in the same age group is both motivating and a big plus social wise. I’m 81 and I do walk almost daily and have some routines I do at home it I know I would not be the way I am today if I had not started senior gym classes 8 years ago. I am strong and healthy and have made some great friends over the years from attending these classes. Our gym instructor is a fantastic 82 years young who still teaches core classes and has balance classes on weekends in addition to my class. My gym also has chair yoga and other classes geared to an older population.

We all have the same aliments and vagaries of age and so does our gym instructor who has had three shoulder surgeries. So I suggest investigating nearby gyms to check out what they offer and find out who actually gives the class. And then…ladies…get some cute gym clothes and tie up sneakers. Looking good makes you feel good. You guys too…don’t go to the gym with slip on shoes, long pants and belts. Get some loose flexible tops and shorts and pay the money for good sneakers.
And then…do what you can do and get addicted to it.

FL Mary

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LOL_ I love this. You are right, new clothes can make your day! And then to show off your new dudes! Whoa! Another good thing about joining a gym is that you can make sure that the trainer corrects your position. Your form is everything to make sure that you are getting everything out of your workout.

Everyone at the gym had the first day so the feeling of intimidation. Don't let it get to you!

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I am 63 and a two time breast cancer survivor. I taught Yoga for 23 years and it served me well!! But then I went through selling my house and moving. Big changes!! Lost my yoga community until recently settling here in Yulee, FL. I’ve been suffering from Covid long haulers- I think- and my stomach blowing up! But thankfully found a yoga community. And Swimming! I love these two exercises as it allows my mind to work in sink with my muscles. I also enjoy walking. My body doesn’t enjoy hard work outs and responds better to slow deep workouts with movement. Love my yoga! Try it! Look for places that offer beginning classes and work your way up!

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Thank you for this. However I find myself with almost tmi and too few hours in the day to incorporate these exercises into my other exercise routine for my multiple issues and no one coordinator in my health plan.
How to prioritize?

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@notmoff

Thank you for this. However I find myself with almost tmi and too few hours in the day to incorporate these exercises into my other exercise routine for my multiple issues and no one coordinator in my health plan.
How to prioritize?

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Well, that is a tough question. From 2017 – 2019, I was ill and seeking a diagnosis – got to where my lungs were so badly infected that "exercise" was walking from the living room to the kitchen for water. Then almost 2 years on 3-antibiotic therapy, with a loss of 20% of my body weight…needless to say I was nearly a couch potato – who hurt from arthritis and inactivity.

In 2020 I decided it was time to take back my life, so I was treated by a local pain management doc & magical PT. It was months of hard work, but I can live again. Here are my priorities (in order) today:

Sleep, healthy diet, daily stretches & movement, daily self-care (for lungs), staying calm & positive through meditation & positive imagery, managing my energy output to allow: time with family & friends, necessary daily activities, volunteering & hobbies.

Some days I overdo, and pay a penalty. Thursday & yesterday were that way – today is all about calm & quiet. The messy counter & laundry can wait.
Sue

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