If you're a senior, maintaining healthy bone mass and preventing age-related muscle loss is one of the most important things you can do for your overall health. And one of the best ways to achieve that is by doing strength exercises.
Strength exercises build muscle, and even very small changes in muscle strength can make a real difference in your ability to perform everyday activities like carrying groceries, lifting a grandchild, or getting up from a chair. It also helps with osteoporosis, arthritis, preventing falls, obesity, back problems, and more.
These types of exercises are based on resistance, helping you to build strength in your arms, legs, and core. With light hand weights or resistance bands, you can do a variety of exercises. You can even do exercises that use your own body weight—such as walking or pushing against a stationary object like a wall.
Here are some general safety guidelines for strength training for seniors:
- Make sure to warm up at least 10 minutes before exercise and cool down for at least 10 minutes after exercise.
- You can expect some soreness in the muscle, but stop the exercise if you feel pain in your joints.
- Maintain a good, upright posture during all exercises.
- Don’t hold your breath while exercising. Make sure you exhale on the exertion part of the exercise.
- All movements should be done in a slow-to-moderate and deliberate manner.
- It is OK to begin with very light resistance or no resistance at all. Progress gradually and you will avoid injury and minimize soreness.
- If you can't lift or push a weight eight times in a row, it's too heavy for you, and you should reduce the amount of weight.
- Avoid locking the joints of your arms and legs into a strained position. To straighten your knee, tighten your thigh muscles. This will lift your kneecaps and protect them.
- If you are starting an exercise program or your arms feel tired after several repetitions, complete the exercise by using one arm at a time. Alternate sides, and then work your way up to using both arms at the same time.
- If it’s difficult to hold hand weights properly, try using wrist weights.
Remember, elderly and seniors strength training can be fun but will only show benefits if it is done regularly with the correct intensity. Talk with your doctor if you are unsure about doing a particular exercise, especially if you’ve had hip or back surgery.
A physical therapist can help teach you the right way to do exercises and a private duty home care professional such as a home health aide can offer great support and motivation to help you keep on track.