Strength training for seniors not only builds up bone and muscle but counteracts the weakness and frailty that usually comes with aging. Exercising your muscles will increase not only your muscular strength but also your muscular endurance which is the ability to repeat a movement over and over again.
Strength training can help with osteoporosis, arthritis and type II diabetes to improve your quality of life. Training with weights or resistance bands along with the right diet can reverse type II diabetes. Regular exercise reduces the risk of chronic diseases, lowers the chance of injury and will improve your mood.
Once you start with strength exercises and become more physically active, you’ll begin to see results in just a few weeks — you’ll feel stronger and more energetic. You’ll notice that you can do things easier, faster, or for longer than before. This tells you that your body is getting used to a higher level of activity.
The easiest way for older people to begin strength and muscle training is by joining a gym. There you can obtain advice from trainers who will set you on the right path to protect against injury. But there’s nothing wrong with strength training in the comfort of your own home. In fact, many seniors prefer to start off at home before branching out to a gym for more advanced training.
Older people who have been sedentary for some time and avoided any constant exercise would be advised to follow this routine when starting out at home. These exercises are for multiple muscle groups.
1. Chair Squats
Stand in front of a chair and bend your knees and slowly sit down until you come in contact with the chair. Keep your back straight and spread your arms for balance. Slowly stand back up and repeat for fifteen repetitions. Once this becomes too easy you can try it while holding weights or something heavy. This exercise will build strength and muscle in the thighs, hips and glutes.
2. Wall Pushups
Stand with your arms extended out in front and your feet shoulder width apart. Place your hands on the wall at chest level. Lean your body into the wall by bending your arms, then slowly push back to your original position. Do this for fifteen repetitions. To make it more difficult, try it using just one arm. Then you can advance to floor pushups. This exercise will build strength and muscle in your chest, shoulders and arms (triceps).
3. Bicep Curls
This is another arm exercise, this time the front of your arms, the biceps. These muscles are used every day carrying groceries and opening car doors and suchlike. Stand with a dumbell in each hand and your arms by your sides. Slowly bend your right arm lifting the dumbell up to your shoulder and down again. Repeat with your left arm for fifteen repetitions each. Instead of dumbells you can use soup tins or anything you can hold that has weight.
When doing weight bearing exercises always make sure you breathe correctly. Breathe in when lowering the weight and breathe out when lifting the weight. As you progress you can use heavier weights or objects that are comfortable to hold.
Repeat the above exercises two to three times per week and increase the sessions to three sets of fifteen repetitions each. You will marvel at how well you are feeling, I guarantee it!
Another form of strength training is using resistance bands.
Resistance bands are large elastic bands that you can use to exercise all parts of your body. They are ideal for people who are less mobile because many of the exercises can be done while sitting down.
Resistance training will greatly improve muscle strength, balance, coordination, flexibility and range of motion, making everyday activities easier. Resistance training also helps fight bone loss, symptoms of arthritis pain, and helps to prevent dementia.
Medical experts advise that seniors (65 and over) should exercise at least two and a half hours per week, incorporating resistance training at least twice a week. Always check with your doctor before undertaking any form of exercise.
You can purchase resistance bands at sports stores or online at places like eBay. They come with different ranges of resistance and are colour coordinated. Start with one that has least resistance and work up to stronger bands.
Below are some great exercises using resistance bands.
Stand up, place both feet on the middle of the resistance band and hold each end of it with your hands.
Raise both arms to the side, until they reach shoulder height, then return to your starting position and repeat ten times.
Place both feet on the middle of the resistance band and hold each end of it with your hands.
Slowly bend your knees into a squatting position, then return to your starting position and repeat ten times.
Sit or stand and put the resistance band behind your back and hold each end of it.
Stretch both arms out in front of your chest, then return to your starting position and repeat ten times.
Sit on a chair with your back straight. Place one foot in the middle of the resistance band and hold both ends of it with your hands. Bend your knee towards you, then straighten it back out in front of you before returning to your starting position and repeating with each leg ten times.
Sit or stand, place both your feet on the middle of the resistance band and hold each end of it with your hands. Raise your arms out in front of you to chest height, then return to your starting position and repeat ten times.
Stand up and place one end of the resistance band under the heel of one of your feet. Hold the other end of the band with both your hands, stretch the band so it runs behind your body and pull it above your head, then return to your starting position and repeat ten times on each side.
Once you can repeat each exercise ten times without a problem, increase the exercises to two sets of ten with a rest in between. Don’t rush things, just take it along slowly and feel yourself getting stronger and more confident. When you can handle three sets of ten for each exercise comfortably, select a stronger band and go back to two sets of ten. Progress to three sets again when you are ready, and so on.
If at any stage your muscles become sore or start hurting, back of on the particular exercise for a few days to allow recovery.
If you’re finding it hard to get motivated towards any form of exercise, always remember that nobody wants to spend their final years in a nursing home.
Ready to put on some real muscle?
Exercise and diet have shown to be the best remedy to ward off the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease or cognitive impairment.