By Daniel G. Amen, MD

The difference between living independently and needing specialized care as you age can depend, in large part, on your muscle mass and strength. Doing some strength training regularly is a wise investment in your future freedom, yet only about 10 to 15 percent of those over 50 are “pumping iron.”

People lose 30% of their muscle strength between the ages of 50 and 70 years. However, in 5 month of regular training you can reverse that statistic and increase your strength by 25 to 30 percent.

In addition, resistance training has been shown to help cognitive brain function in the senior years. Here’s how and why to “go strong” into your Golden Years.

Research shows that regular strength (resistance) training increases muscle strength and reduces muscular atrophy. These improvements also help prevent falls and injuries. Perhaps not surprisingly, training intensively yields more muscle mass than training lightly. The optimum amount of exercise for healthy elderly persons is 3 to 4 training sessions per week.

“Our analyses of current research show that the most important factor in somebody’s function is their strength capacity,” says researcher Mark D. Peterson. “No matter what age an individual is, they can experience significant strength improvement with progressive resistance exercise even into the eighth and ninth decades of life.”

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