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Muscle strength is essential for living independently. It allows us to do everyday tasks more easily, such as climbing stairs, carrying heavy shopping, opening doors and gardening. However, muscle strength naturally declines at older ages – estimates suggest we lose 50% of our muscle strength between the ages of 25 and 85. Whilst we cannot completely reverse or stop this decline, we can delay and/or slow down the speed at which we lose strength.

The best evidence for improving our muscle strength is resistance training. Unfortunately, most people do not do enough resistance training and it is often considered the ‘forgotten physical activity guideline’. The Institute of Sport Exercise and Health’s Dr Snehal Pinto Pereira, Associate Professor in Population Health and Applied Statistics,  Dr Rachael Frost, Senior Research Fellow from UCL and Anna Lowe from Sheffield Hallam University, wanted to understand how we might encourage resistance training around the point of retirement. The team decided to focus on the point of retirement specifically because this is a key life-event with lots of changes.

Therefore, taking up a new behaviour, such as resistance training, might be easier to start and maintain. They spoke to a diverse group of 30 people who were considering retiring or who had recently retired. 

They identified the following barriers to resistance training:

•    Most people did not understand what resistance training is and which activities are most helpful for maintaining strong muscles. 
•    There was little awareness of the negative consequences of muscle weakness. 
•    Resistance training is not as visible in society as cardiovascular activities such as walking and jogging. 
•    It can be difficult to know where and how to start. 
•    Some people felt they were too weak to resistance train. 

Their findings underscore the need for comprehensive education and clear communication strategies to dispel misconceptions and encourage people to start and continue resistance training as an essential component of a healthy lifestyle.

Dr Pinto Pereira said “Based on our work we developed a video to dispel myths and barriers to resistance training. It covers, the importance of muscle strength, how intense resistance training needs to be and how to do it. We also talk about how your muscles might feel when you are exercising and the next day, as most people do not realise that some soreness, especially at the beginning, is normal!” Please take a look at the video, on ISEH's YouTube channel.

Continue reading their published research in the Journal of Applied Gerontology.