Over the years, adults lose muscle mass and therefore strength simply because they are getting older.
This normal loss in muscle size can cause difficulties in living safely and independently. Older adults may become less able or unable to participate in favorite activities. They may be at risk of falling or simply unable to get out of a chair.
But there is good news. No matter what your age or ability you can get stronger.
In the 1990’s researchers showed that strength training is helpful for older adults.
You can do strength training if you are healthy, active and in your sixties.
You can also do it if you are less active or frail and in your nineties!
Both Health Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine now include strength training in their recommendations for physical activity. Thanks to this new information, weight training programs for older adults are becoming more popular and are now available in many communities.
What is strength training?
Some suggestions are:
- Carrying your laundry, groceries or other heavy objects
- Lifting dumbbells or barbells that you buy at a store· Lifting weights that you make from cans or containers filled with water or sand
- Doing push-ups against the wall· Using a weight-lifting machine
Whatever weight or resistance you use, it must be heavy enough to improve your strength. You can do exercises at home as part of your daily activities or in a gym or weight-training center.
What are the benefits of strength training?
When you do strength training, you will regain some of the muscle mass you have lost due to aging. You will be able to do your daily activities with more ease, balance and confidence. In addition to improving your strength research shows that you will:
- Have healthier bones
- Have better posture
- Decrease your body fat
- Reduce your risk of falling
- Be able to walk faster
- React quicker
- Climb stairs more easily
- Rise out of a chair more easily
Why else would you want to do strength training? One senior said strength training enabled him to continue activities that he enjoyed.
Where can you find strength training programs?
Look for training programs at community health centers, community resource centers, YMCA s, YWCA s, recreation centers, fitness clubs, continuing education programs in neighborhood schools, seniors organizations, universities or colleges.
If the one near you does not have a strength training program for older adults – see if you can get them to start one! It simply makes good sense.
How do you train safely?
Always talk to your doctor, health-care provider or fitness instructor before you make any big changes in your physical activities.
Get help from a qualified fitness instructor to help you do your exercises properly. Join a strength training program or get one on one instruction.
- Breathe naturally. Do not hold your breath.
- Start slowly.
- Increase the number of times you do an exercise before you increase the weight.
- Always use the proper technique. Don’t lift so much weight that you can’t use the proper technique.
How do you do strength training?
For best results at home or at the gym, the experts suggest that you:
- Do your training two to three times a week with one day in between.
- Always exercise the main muscle groups: arms, chest, back, abdomen, and legs. This will involve 8 to 10 different exercises.
- Do at least one ‘set’ of each exercise. This means repeating the same exercise 8-12 times before resting.
- You can improve your strength more if you do two to three sets of each exercise.
- Rest for about two minutes between each set.
- If you are a beginner, choose a weight that you can move 10 to 15 times in one set.
- Once you are able to do an exercise more than 10-15 times in one set, it’s time to increase the weight.
- You can then use a heavier weight that you can move 8 to 10 times in one set. This is called progression and it is necessary if you want to improve your strength.
Train once a week when you reach your strength goal so you will maintain it.
Now….Just go DO IT!!