While the proverbial fountain of youth has yet to be found, feeling young and healthy is possible by engaging in a strength training program. A regular fitness regimen that includes strength training offers seniors numerous physical and emotional health benefits.
Strength training is also known as resistance training. The point is to stretch the muscle, either through lifting weights or using stretchy bands. When muscles are strained during weight lifting—which is the goal—the body’s natural response is to build muscle.
Seniors may be motivated to start a strength training program when they realize 70 is the new 50. The right physical fitness plan will help individuals meet their exercise goals. Many aging people pursue strength training to maintain independence and a high quality of life.
What are the health benefits of strength training?
Older bodies depend on physical exercise, like strength training, to remain flexible and strong. Seniors who participate in strength training exercises maintain healthy bones, joints and muscles. Through regular exercise, the pain and joint swelling associated with arthritis are significantly diminished.
Muscle strength and stamina are significantly improved when seniors with chronic conditions lift moderate weights. Symptoms of anxiety and depression decrease; overall mood improves; and feelings of well-being increase. In elderly individuals living with hypertension, physical exercise lowers blood pressure.
Lifting weights, even by adults over age 50, has been shown to fight against age-related muscle loss. Recent studies show that age-related muscle loss can be reversed; strength training actually builds new muscle. In less than six months, muscle mass can be increased by as much as 2.5 pounds.
One of the most significant benefits of strength training is that seniors maintain the ability to function in daily life, and therefore, live independently. Older people who build muscle mass reduce their risk of falling and sustaining a subsequent injury.
A holistic exercise program will help seniors build strength, remain flexible and mobile, and maintain balance. It is important to find a strength training program that is enjoyable. Disliking a workout can dissuade an individual from continuing, resulting in the loss of invaluable health benefits.
How should seniors start a strength training program?
Prior to starting an exercise program, seniors are advised to receive clearance from a physician. A balanced physical exercise routine is recommended for most people over age 70. Such a routine includes moderate strength training, but also aerobic activity and flexibility exercises.
Seniors new to strength training are advised to start by performing exercises that simply use bodyweight. Exercise physiologists recommend this strategy so that individuals learn proper form. A base level of strength is built, at which point extra challenges can be added.
Basic bodyweight exercises a senior may start with include squats. Increase the difficulty by carrying dumbbells or a medicine ball while performing the squats. Incline pushups strengthen the upper body. Seated row utilizes resistance bands. Stationary lunges build muscle even without weights.
Starting with basic bodyweight exercises also helps to reduce the risk of injury. Perform three sets of bodyweight movements of 10 to 15 repetitions each. Seniors who feel at ease with bodyweight exercises can add light weights to the workout.
Increase the weights based on comfort level. An alternative to dumbbells is resistance bands. Repetitions of 8 to 12 in sets of three are recommended. Above all else, seniors are encouraged to practice good form when strength training with free weights or resistance bands.
When starting out, train for 10 to 15 minutes. Soreness should be followed by rest; once the muscle soreness is relieved, start a new session. Strength training is ideally performed three to four days a week. Alternate workout days to give muscles a chance to recover.
Muscle soreness is a normal part of strength training. Seniors should be aware that recovering from muscle soreness may take longer, since aging bodies tend to recover from exercise soreness at a slower pace. However, giving the body ample time to recover will produce better results.
Elderly individuals who exercise at a gym may consult a personal trainer for help with perfecting form. Or, older adults may join a senior fitness program. The National Council On Aging recommends EnhanceFitness, Fit and Strong!, Geri-Fit and On the Move, among other group programs.
After every strength training session, seniors are advised to consume a healthy meal. Without eating nutritious foods afterward, the muscles will lack the nutrients to build in strength and size. Aim to eat proteins, like chicken, fish, beans and nuts, such as almonds and pistachios.
Strengthening the aging body’s largest muscle groups significantly improves an individual’s ability to execute common, daily functions with greater ease. Carrying the groceries, climbing stairs, and playing with grandchildren become easier when muscles gain strength and flexibility through resistance training.
Strength training can begin at any age. A 73-year-old woman in Arizona, for example, started lifting weights 10 years ago. By going to the gym three days a week, she built muscle and bone mass. After a year, she was fit enough to compete in the local senior Olympics.
Whether the senior in your life wants to build enough muscle to compete in the local senior Olympics or simply aims to carry the groceries with greater ease, a strength training program is beneficial. A professional caregiver from Assisting Hands Home Care can motivate the senior to achieve her goals.
Our companion caregivers provide safe transportation to the senior center for exercise classes or to physical therapy. After each exercise session, our caregivers ensure the elderly consume balanced meals and adequate hydration—which refuel their bodies and provide energy for the rest of the day.
Assisting Hands Home Care services are flexible. Aging loved ones may require extra support at home a few days a week. Or, the senior may need continual, 24-hour monitoring. Our home care agency accommodates all variations in schedules and fulfills individual care needs.
Families with seniors living in Boynton Beach, Palm Beach, West Palm Beach, North Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Wellington FL and the surrounding areas, are encouraged to consult Assisting Hands Home Care for compassionate elder care. Our companion care services keep isolation and loneliness at bay, so that seniors feel supported and live their best each day.