Strong Lines

Posted by strivealive on June 1, 2011

 I would like to introduce Mother Gillian and Father William, my two        poetical exemplars of Successful Aging. I have been writing                  intermittently about this couple for some years and have composed many lines in their honor. FYI the terms “Father” and “Mother” are not used in either a religious or parental context here. They are terms used long ago in the UK as an honorific signifying respect for the wisdom accumulated with age. You will see, I hope, that same ‘wisdom of action’ in the following lines. In the spirit of Successful Aging therefore may I offer you a lighthearted, “limerickal” of “Energized Aging”


“You are grey Mother Gillian”, the young girl said,

“an oldie by any description.

“Yet you sing and you dance at the drop of a hat

No need of a doctor’s prescription!”


“You are old, Father William” the young girl said,

“and I can’t believe all you can lift.

“You’re not frail or weak, though you’re 90 years on

What is it that gives you this gift?”


As you think about the positivity exemplified by the strengths of these two dramatis personae

What life rhythms are coming up for you?


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Walking may enhance brain health … but wait … there’s more!

Posted by strivealive on October 20, 2010

Your brain on legs!

A recent study in the Journal of Neurology found that walking may preserve memory in old age. For the study, 299 dementia-free people recorded the number of blocks they walked in one week. Then nine years later, scientists took brain scans of the participants to measure their brain size. After four more years, the participants were tested to see if they had developed cognitive impairment or dementia.The study found that people who walked at least 72 blocks per week, or roughly six to nine miles, had greater gray matter volume than people who didn’t walk as much, when measured at the nine-year time point after their recorded activity. Walking more than 72 blocks did not appear to increase gray matter volume any further.

This is good news and another brick in the wall of information that increasingly shows exercise is beneficial at levels and to extents that we are still discovering.

But wait … there’s more! These positive findings prompted me to make the case (again) for strength training, in part because the article above reminded me that strength training, too, has been reported to improve brain function! Check out my earlier blog post ‘Brawny Brains?’ .

Strength training however, has the added advantage of increasing independence by improving our ability to perform activities of daily living such as chores, lifting, carrying, using stairs and chairs etc, something that cannot be achieved simply by walking. Additionally we can gain these strength-induced benefits in as little as 2 sessions of 30 minutes per week – far less time than the 72 blocks a week walked by individuals in the Neurology study!

These documented benefits, combined with its relatively short time requirement, is yet another great reason for  residential/wellness directors to include some form of strength training or strengthening program their older adult community’s wellness culture. Check out my blog post ‘Taking the road less travelled’ .

The other thing is, for those of us who love to walk, or wish to start, the increased leg strength and endurance gained from strength training, as well as its positive contribution to balance, will make walking easier to include in our active lifestyle. So …

Give yourself – and your walking – a ‘lift’

Add strength training to your weekly activities

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Carrying your own weight

Posted by strivealive on October 19, 2009

DB and Wt

Lift the weight to carry the weight

Conventional wisdom tells us that to lose weight, in addition to dieting, we have to perform aerobic exercise – lots of aerobic exercise – walking, jogging, running etc. This belief has been capitalized on by health clubs and equipment manufacturers of various kinds and is the reason all those ellipticals, treadmills and stair steppers have ‘fat burning zones’ described in detail on their consoles. Though I have yet to see ‘fat burning zones’ etched on dumbbells – or described on strength training posters – it is a little known reality is that strength training is a great method, not only of maintaining and increasing muscle, but also of reducing the buildup and reversing the fat gain typically associated with aging.

 I have been asked about this issue several times over the last months and had planned to post something in the near future. But then I came across an excellent article written by my friend and colleague, Dr. Wayne Westcott (yes his name is Wayne too!). Dr. Westcott is a tour de force in strength training advocacy and education. He is regarded as one of the foremost experts in this field and has written and presented extensively on the benefits of strength training for older adults. The piece I quote from below is taken from a recent article he wrote for The Patriot Ledger, a local newspaper in Quincy MA. The article was entitled “Keeping Fit: Strength training pays off in more ways than one”

 Dr Westcott initially makes the point that, although aerobic exercise is important, it does not slow or prevent the muscle loss associated with aging. He reports on a University of Florida study of masters runners who, although clearly at the highest levels of aerobic fitness, nevertheless lost five pounds of muscle over a 10-year period. In other words, all that running did nothing to impact the two major underlying causes of fat gain with aging – muscle loss and metabolic slowdown. While it is still important to perform regular aerobic activity therefore, the research is clear that for optimal health and wellness benefits a sensible strength training program is essential.

Why strength training?  Here’s the relevant extract from Dr. Westcott’s article with a few notes in italics from me

“In the absence of strength exercise, adults lose about six pounds of muscle tissue every decade. This results in a three percent per decade reduction in resting metabolic rate that leads to an 18-pound per decade increase in body fat. So, if the underlying cause of fat gain is muscle loss, it makes sense to start the fat reversal process with exercise that replaces the lost muscle. Of course, the best means for rebuilding muscle is a sensible program of strength training.

Research demonstrates that 10 weeks of basic and brief strength training (Note: similar to STRIVE) can add three pounds of muscle and increase resting metabolic rate by 7 percent (approximately 100 calories a day). In other words, with respect to muscle and metabolism, less than three months of standard strength training can reverse several years of the aging process. In addition to the large increase in resting metabolism, strength training uses a considerable amount of energy during the exercise session (6 to 8 calories per minute – our own research also confirms this – see later posts) and more calories after the workout to convert from the anaerobic energy system to the aerobic energy system. That is, strength training provides a triple reducing effect for fat loss by increasing calorie use during the exercise session, after the exercise session, and all day long because of increased resting metabolic rate. In a classic research study conducted by Tufts University, the combined effects of a standard strength training program increased daily energy requirements by 15 percent (more than 200 calories per day) after just three months of exercise.

While these results are very impressive, it is equally encouraging to know that effective strength training programs can be extremely time-efficient. Our research with more than 1,600 study subjects averaged a three-pound muscle gain after 10 weeks of training for just 20 minutes per session. Our program participants performed one set (8 to 12 repetitions) of 10 weight machines two or three days per week (Note: almost identical to our STRIVE program!). This represents a modest amount of training time for a significant increase in muscle mass.

It makes sense from every perspective to perform regular strength exercise. In addition to reversing the muscle loss, metabolic slowdown and fat gain associated with the aging process, strength training reduces the risk of numerous degenerative diseases and disabilities. These include obesity, osteoporosis, arthritis, colon cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, unfavorable blood lipid profiles, low back pain and depression. (See These important health and fitness benefits, not to mention improved physical appearance and functional abilities, make strength training a must-do activity.”

The really cool thing about Dr. Westcott’s research is that, as noted above, his strength training program design – though developed independently of ours – is almost identical to that of STRIVE. I will be expanding on the notes above relating to the energy expenditure of strength training in future posts, but this information represents yet another great benefit of strength training, and one that can be gained in as little as 20 minutes, three times per week!

Posted in STRIVE Medical, STRIVE Science | 4 Comments »

I have good news and I have ….. more good news

Posted by strivealive on May 24, 2009

PreCor Leg Machine

give yourself a leg up!

The good news is that the very first free standing STRIVE facility is to be opened at The Citadel in Scottsdale Arizona. Scheduled for mid-June, our state of the art facility will feature Universal Design-focused weight training machines supplied by PreCor – the pre-eminent equipment manufacturer in the US – and a company that strongly endorses our program. The photo to the left is of our new ‘Universally’ accessable leg press machine. Additional pictures and images coming soon!

More good news … with the opening of ‘STRIVE at the Citadel’ we will continue to promote and broadcast the ‘good news’ of strength training and accumulate more evidence of the benefits for older adults which are summarized below:

                        With STRIVE you get more of ‘the good news’ and less of ‘the bad news’

         MORE GOOD NEWS                                                                   LESS BAD NEWS

INCREASES bone strength

REDUCES risk of osteoporosis
IMPROVES blood sugar usage REDUCES risk of type II diabetes
SPEEDS gastrointestinal transit time  REDUCES risk of colon cancer
IMPROVES blood pressure REDUCES risk of heart disease
IMPROVES cholesterol REDUCES risk of heart disease
INCREASES low back strength & stability REDUCES risk of low back pain
IMPROVES posture REDUCES incidence of daily pain
EASES arthritic discomfort REDUCES pain of movement
INCREASES self-confidence REDUCES depression and anxiety
INCREASES muscle mass REDUCES muscle loss
INCREASES strength REDUCES frailty
INCREASES energy REDUCES fatigue


                                                    MAKE MORE GOOD NEWS OF YOUR OWN

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Strength with Grace

Posted by strivealive on April 15, 2009


Broadcast Strength

Last Monday (April 6th, 2009) I was the featured guest on Blog Talk Radio’s “Aging with Grace” show. As well as being the title of the show, ‘Aging with Grace’ (AWG) is also the name of a very successful company run by an extremely capable and impressive lady, Patricia Grace (Aging with Grace – get it!). AWG is a highly regarded, national eldercare resource provider whose mission is  “…to educate, coordinate, and facilitate individualized eldercare options one family at a time.” Check out their website, it’s really impressive!

Patricia and I ‘met’ via LinkedIn a business networking site, and we soon saw the potential to be realized in joining forces. There are some important and valuable collaborations in store that I will be writing about in the future, but for the moment, as they say, “Back to the show!”

My topic was “Strength and Aging – Myths and Facts” and  it was an exciting moment for me – my first appearance on a show such as this and the opportunity to talk about STRIVE with someone who ‘gets it’. We talked a little about the history of STRIVE, and how it came to be developed into a successful licensing model on the verge of a national launch. We talked about the benefits of the program to seniors generally and, particularly to Senior Housing communities of various kinds. Patricia also brought up the potential for STRIVE  to work with caregivers – a great idea that she and I are going to explore in the coming weeks.

In addition to these topics, Patricia, and several of her listeners, had some excellent questions and (hopefully) they also heard some informative answers! I won’t write about the whole show here, but if you want to hear more about well-informed instructor choices, more strive stories, meaningful improvements in real-life activities, heart strength, how old is too old? (hint – there is no such animal!), and the one about the 55 yr old son who came to complain about his 92 year old father doing ‘dangerous strength training exercises’ – and ended up joining STRIVE to work out with his dad! If you want to hear more, and find out more, about any of these topics – as well as more about STRIVE – check out the AWG archives @ and click on “Strength and Aging – Myths and Facts”.

When you have listened to the show, post a comment or a question here and I’ll be happy to answer.

Switch on your radio and then (Gracefully) switch on your Independence, Vitality, and Energy!

Posted in STRIVE Sources | 2 Comments »

Giving yourself a lift

Posted by strivealive on March 29, 2009

give-yourself-a-liftI was talking to Dr. Joana Pabadinskas the other day as I was cranking away on the elliptical trainer up at the Pecos Campus Fitness Center of the Chandler Gilbert Community College. Joana was the instructor on duty, is a good friend of mine and was once one of my doctoral students. She was involved in some of the early research with STRIVE at the Escalante Intergenerational Center in Tempe, AZ.  Back then we used to spell it with 2 S’s (SSTRIVE: Seniors Strength TRaining for Independence Vitality and Energy). I was telling her about this blog and ‘STRIVE Stories’ – and we remembered this one.

During our research we would conduct a maximum strength test called a One Repetition Maximum (or 1RM). This test involves finding the maximum amount of weight an individual can lift safely, with good form and through a full range of movement. I won’t go into the details of testing here (See Single set Strength training and functional fitness  if you would like to read more), but Joana was remembering how we used to cover up the weight stack on the leg press machine station with a bright orange cloth, so our test participants would not see how much they were trying to lift. We were concerned that seeing the stack of ‘blocks’ – or the actual weight written on the blocks – would be a little ‘off putting’ and they would not try as hard as they could. 

 For their actual strength training they would usually start at around 60% of their 1RM and once they could complete 12 repetitions of this weight with good form we would “add a little more weight”.  We wouldn’t tell them how much they were lifting until about 2-3 weeks into their training program. We were remembering Alice a 72 year old lady on the Leg Press. She had just completed 12 repetitions in good form and so was ready to move up in weight. I, in turn, was ready to surprise her! “Hey Alice” I said “Do you realize you just did 12 reps of 150 pound?” She looked astounded and asked “Really?” I said “Yes, and by the way you did 200 pounds on your last 1RM!” She looked down at the weight stack and shook her head. “Well, I am amazed” she said “I would never have thought I could lift that much!”

Self Efficacy is  “the belief that you can successfully perform a specific task” and is an essential aspect of independence for older adults. To see the many ways that STRIVE has increased Self Efficacy check out our testimonials on

Give yourself a lift – Join STRIVE!

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Rocking the Joint: a “STRIVE Sources” post

Posted by strivealive on March 13, 2009

Rocking all the joints!

Rocking all the joints!

Over the last several months we have been hosting a ‘Successful Aging’ series of talks at the Via Linda Senior Center in Scottsdale, AZ. The response has been so positive that we are extending the series by popular request! Because of this I thought it would be a good idea to occasionally post a brief summary of our talks there as a good source of information not all related to strength but all related to the STRIVE  philosophy. So say hello to a new occasional series we are calling  “STRIVE Sources”. The first of which relates to joint health. Here we go ….

As Sting famously sings, “every step you take, and every move you make …” , there is a joint involved (Ok Sting didn’t sing about joints but I couldn’t resist the reference). Joints are an always switched on, always active and always essential part of daily living. In fact we don’t leave home without them! Perhaps in part because of this nonstop motion, they are also one of the most frequent reasons for doctors visits – up to a third of which are for muscle and joint (or ‘musculo-skeletal’) pain. Joint pain, much of which is generally the result of osteoarthritis, can affect anyone and typically starts as our bodies begin to show the effects of aging. Its effect is all the more noticeable with ‘Usual Aging’ which I have discussed in this blog many times before.

Osteoarthritis is felt as different things by different people. In women, it occurs more frequently after age 50, and is likely to develop in the hands, knees, ankles, or feet. In men, it occurs more frequently before age 45 and is likely to develop in the wrists, hips, or spine. The good news is that joint pain is not inevitable with aging and there are a number of things, described below, that you can do to encourage and maintain joint health.

But first – a quick ‘Cliffs Notes’ overview of joints and their major components.

Every joint has the same make up – only the way they operate may differ. For example shoulders work more like a ball-and-socket, while knees work more like a door hinge.  All joints have the same basic function: They connect one bone to another and give us the ability to bend, twist and shout, and wave our hands (or anything else) in the air.

Without going into too much detail, the main components of joints are: –

  1. Connective Tissue – AKA Ligaments and Muscles. The ligaments provide an extremely strong ‘connection’ between one bone and the next. The muscles also ‘connect’ bones but mainly provide the means for movement. In other words the ligaments provide joint stability and the muscles provide joint movement.
  2. Cartilage AKA ‘The Smooth Cushioner’. Cartilage is a tough, fibrous, disc-shaped piece of tissue that acts as a cushion between joints. Because it is also somewhat elastic, it acts as a shock absorber to prevent bones from grinding against each other. Osteoarthritis appears when we start to lose that cushioning, and a number of things can contribute to the loss, often all at the same time. Here’s a list of the ‘usual suspects’.

Aging: Cartilage thins as we age and over time the surface of cartilage can change from smooth to irregular and rough. That’s when you start to notice …. those things that you once took for granted. Remember getting out of the chair or getting up the stairs?. You used to do these things without much thought … but now …. ?

Previous injuries: Even if you didn’t think much of them at the time, seemingly minor joint injuries when you were younger can sometimes be the reason for joint pain in later life. They can cause microscopic injuries to muscles and ligaments (known as ‘microtraumas’) which then produce joint pain ‘down the line’.

Inflammation: Small injuries (microtraumas) can upset the biomechanics of your joints. This, in turn, changes the internal make up of the cartilage. These microtraumas can produce low levels of inflammation which then release chemicals that are damaging to joints over time.

Muscle loss: Muscles help to support joints. The less muscle you have, the less strength you have and the less support you are able to give to the joints. Because of this they are far more likely to be damaged (and damaged earlier) by the constant impacts and  ‘poundings’ they recieve from even normal daily living.

Excess weight: More weight = more work for the joint = more damage (and more microtraumas) in the long run. This is especially true for knees, which have to support your body weight.

Ok so now you know the issues – here are some options for doing something about them.

Healthy Joints for Healthy living.

For joint health it’s mostly about the cartilage, and while current thinking is that you can’t bring back cartilage that’s already lost (research on the two most well known osteoarthritis treatments chondroitin and glucosamine is, at best, inconclusive), there are several options you can choose that have been shown to either prevent the wear and tear, or reduce the pain associated with osteoarthritis.

Stay at a healthy weight. This is probably your best option for joint health. Staying at a healthy weight will help reduce the microtraumas that damage cartilage. Research reports that a weight loss of as little as 11 pounds can reduce arthritis pain by about 50 percent for many women. Weight loss (if you are already overweight) may also help slow the progression of osteoarthritis over time.

Stay active. Physical activity helps reduce stiffness in the joints. Low- or no-impact aerobic exercises like swimming, walking, or cycling twice a week or so is ideal. Strength exercises too are particularly effective for reducing symptoms of osteoarthritis (see below). When mixed with stretching and relaxation exercises, these make up a highly pro-active approach for keeping joints working their best.

Stay strong. Muscles help to support joints.  The more muscle you have – the more potential muscle strength you have – and the more you will be able to absorb the impacts and ‘poundings’ of daily living. This produces less stress on the joints. Less joint stress = more joint health! Weight training strengthens the muscles and ligaments that surround joints. Our STRIVE program has been shown to be highly successful at this.

Stay cool. Some people experience pain, swelling or discomfort after exercise. If this applies to you, icing your joints for 10 minutes or so after the activity can help. When you exercise, a lubricant called synovial fluid is drawn into your joints. However, if the fluid sticks around too long after exercise, it can cause cracks in the cartilage. Ice helps to move the fluid out of the joint and into the lymphatic system, the garbage disposal of the body.

Stay with a good diet. Studies show that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish can not only help to reduce symptoms of joint pain but also slow or reduce the levels of inflammation that may be causing some of the pain. The best sources are fish such as salmon and tuna. Research also shows that 400 to 800 International Units (IUs) of daily vitamin D may also protect your joints by preventing or reducing  inflamation. As a comparison, one cup of milk contains 100 IUs of Vitamin D and three ounces of salmon contains 300-650 IUs of Vitamin D.

Stay supplemented?

There are many supplements that may promote joint health in a variety of ways. While ‘the jury is still out’ on the scientific backing to these claims here’s a list of the most well known. Talk to your physician or nutritionist for more details – or just post a comment/question on this site.

  1. Flax seed – Flax seed and flax seed oil contain alpha-linolenic acid (a good source of Omega-3’s), which has been reported to reduce inflammation and pain in the joints.
  2. Fish oil and Cod liver oil – Fish oil contains EPA and DHA, two Omega-3 fatty acids that have been reported to reduce joint inflammation.  It has also been claimed that Cod liver oil may help in the regeneration of cartilage tissue within the body.
  3. Glucosamine and Chondroitin – These substances make up the type of cartilage that is found in joints. There is some indication that taking a supplement with both glucosamine and chondroitin may help increase the rate of new cartilage being formed in the joints, though the research at present is still not conclusive.
  4. Vitamin D – This vitamin is showing promise in the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). A recent study showed that women with the highest amount of Vitamin D in their diets had the lowest incidence of RA.

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Lighting the Spark

Posted by strivealive on March 7, 2009


sparking ignition!

I came across a fascinating article the other day describing the work of a Finnish researcher by the name of Dr. Taina Rantanen. She too has conducted extensive research on the links between strength, aging and health. The article was entitled “Strength for Real Life” and although it was written in 2005, the information it contains is still very relevant today – and relevant also to the concept and philosophy of STRIVE. Here are some selected out takes with my comments

In promoting strength training and physi­cal activeness, the most important thing is to find ways to light the spark of exercise among old people. Dr. Rantanen does not consider it an absolute value to give instructions for optimal exercises aimed at achieving the best possible exercise response, if as a result elderly individuals find exercising according to the recom­mendations beyond the reach of their pos­sibilities.

“You have to take into consideration that people are ready to devote, say, only a certain amount of time each week to training,” she says. “A guideline stipulating that one has to exercise intensively many times a week may feel so overwhelming that nothing happens if that’s the only model offered.”

This fits with some of my recent posts on doing ‘just a little more’ – not only for becoming more active generally, but also for strength training. With STRIVE, we have seen remarkable benefits from sessions lasting as little as 20 minutes twice a week. Dr Rantanen clearly has also seen the same thing. She emphasizes that, in addition to having the right information, we have to strive (Yes she did use that word!!) to make the threshold for exercise, and especially strength training as low as possible. Here’s what she says …

 “You can be gentle with people in the area of exercise, too, because it’s been found that even once-a-week strength training, say, produces results. On the other hand, once the spark for exercising has been lit, old people also become capable of just about anything, and they may become incredibly keen about using the gym.”

“…old people also become capable of just about anything, …” – now that’s what I call Successful Aging!

We also see this ‘spark’ with our STRIVE members. They keep coming back to the gym, meet, greet and work out with their friends – and often socialize after the session ends.

Hangin’ at the gym with your buddies – how cool is that!

So … What’s sparkin’ for you?

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More Can Do conversations

Posted by strivealive on February 25, 2009

Can do

Can Do!

This is the second post on my recent conversations about ‘Usual’ vs ‘Successful’ Aging with a  group of older adults. I was comparing what ‘usually’ happens with strength to what can happen … and what actually does happen with many members of STRIVE who strength train with us on a regular basis. As I said in my previous post, I received a lot of good feedback from this event so I decided to share it here. It makes ‘Unusually Good’ reading!

Of course the conversation in this group turned, as it always does, to the ubiquitous question of weight loss. “Ok so what about weight loss?” somebody asked “is strength training good for that too?”

Here’s what ‘usually’ happens: We gain about one pound of body fat per year from the age of 30. By the time we hit 70 we have gained about 15% body fat more than our 30 year old fat mass.  So far so not good!

Here’s what can happen: The good part comes when we think about how strength training fuels energy expenditure. First of all strength training increases muscle mass and so gives your metabolism (your body’s energy expenditure) a permanent ‘boost’. This makes it easier to lose body fat. Strength training also makes it easier to perform aerobic exercise (another way to increase energy expenditure) because of increased strength and endurance. All this can happen with an appropriately designed program of strength training. Of course you are also expending energy while actually doing the strength training! The importance of strength training in weight management has recently been confirmed by The American College of Sports Medicine. This world wide organization recommended including strength training as an important part of a weight management program. Here’s the relevant quote

… the inclusion of resistance training in weight loss programs has clear advantages. Resistance training is a potent stimulus to increase fat-free mass (FFM), muscular strength, and power and thus may be an important component of a successful weight loss program by helping to preserve FFM while maximizing fat loss.

Sounds good to me!

 Lastly, a number of women asked whether strength training can stop or slow bone loss.

Here’s what ‘usually’ happens: The average woman loses about 1% of bone mass each year and after menopause this rate can almost double during the first 5 menopausal years. By age 60 some 20% or more of pre-menopausal bone mass may be lost.

Here’s what can happen: An appropriately designed strength training program can  actually reverse this process! Studies have shown that a regularly attended strength training program can slow, reduce or even reverse bone loss. Studies as short as 16 weeks have been shown to increase bone strength and reduce the risk for fractures among older women. But here’s the thing. You have to be working at more than 70% of your maximal strength for these exercises. Not that working at lower levels won’t do any good. It will. But just using those thin rubber bands or those small dumbells won’t cut it for bone strength. Though your muscles may get stronger with this form of exercise, you have to gradually build up the amount of weight you lift to strengthen your bones. This is more achievable than you may think. STRIVE members safely and regularly work at these levels with no problems.

The bottom line from this conversation is that the many benefits of strength training can not only make you stronger but also can help you to “Activate your Aging”


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Can Do conversations

Posted by strivealive on February 24, 2009

cat-can-doI was talking the other day about some interesting statistics relating to strength and aging – and some highly encouraging research ‘responses’ to these numbers.  I had been speaking to an audience of older adults on ‘Usual’ vs ‘Successful’ Aging and comparing what ‘usually’ happens with strength to what can happen … and what actually does happen with many members of STRIVE who strength train with us on a regular basis. I received a lot of good feedback from this conversation so I decided to share it here in the next two posts. Trust me – it makes ‘Unusually Good’ reading!

 The first thing we discussed was losing muscle strength and how to prevent or delay this.

Here’s what ‘usually’ happens: When we age we lose on average about 1% of our maximal strength per year. While this process is ultimately inevitable, the rate and magnitude of strength loss is not.  

Here’s what can happen: Research has shown that up to four decades of ‘usual’ strength loss can actually be REVERSED over a period of 6 months or less with regular participation in an appropriately designed strength training program. If this sounds too good to be true you should listen to one of our own STRIVE (60+) participant tell us that she has “got back the strength she had 10-15 years ago, maybe more” (Check this out @  it’s the 5th video clip in the collection). We also have a considerable amount of data showing how strength increases can make typical activities of daily living much easier to perform. For example getting out of a chair can be a major challenge for some older adults. However after a 12 week program of STRIVE strength training, individuals who could only get up and down out  of a chair 6 or 7 times in 30 seconds were able to do this 10 or 12 times. This is a major and meaningful improvement in functional capacity, and almost a doubling in strength!

As well as strength we also talked about muscle mass, in other words how much muscle you actually have. The more muscle mass, the more potential strength – so this measure is pretty important.

Here’s what ‘usually’ happens: We lose about half a pound of muscle mass per year from the age of 30. By the time we hit 70 we have lost about 30% of our 30 year old muscle mass. To put this in real life terms – a 30 year old woman with 50 pounds of muscle mass has enough strength to easily cope with everyday challenges, and even to participate in sports and leisure time events with ease. By age 70 she will have only about 30 pounds of muscle mass – and a much lower level of physical strength, something that will have a major impact on her physical independence. This is not an isolated occurrence and has been confirmed by a number of national research surveys. For example data from The Framingham Disability Study – a long term national survey of health and wellness status – showed that more than half the women over age 70 in that survey could not even lift a 10-pound weight, let alone a grocery bag or a grandchild!

Here’s what can happen: Strength training has overwhelmingly been shown to improve this situation in a meaningful and rewarding fashion. To illustrate this … my very first research project with older adults (way back in the early 90’s) found that a 12 week program of strength training significantly increased muscle mass in men aged 65-82. Later research with more sophisticated measuring equipment has confirmed that that older adults can gain more than a pound of muscle every month of strength training at 2-3 times per week. By the way, this doesn’t need to take hours. We have had great results from 2-3 times a week of our STRIVE program with 6 strength training exercises lasting about 30 minutes per session. This is powerful stuff! We have seen the difference this kind of strength training makes to an older adult – particularly if they are relatively frail. It gives them a new outlook on life and new independence! The final thing is … greater muscle mass is not only linked to greater muscle strength but also to greater bone strength (see below), and to reduced risk of falls (see later post). You get a ‘triple whammy’! How cool is that!

  The bottom line from this conversation is that the many benefits of strength training can not only make you stronger but also can help you to “Activate your Aging”!


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