Strength training uses resistance methods, such as free weights, weight machines, resistance bands or a person’s own weight to build muscles and strength. When done correctly, strength training provides numerous health benefits and can be especially advantageous for senior citizens. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity stated that regular strengthening exercises help to prevent osteoporosis and frailty; improve balance, coordination and mobility; reduce the risk of falling; and promote mental and emotional health.
Positive outcomes from strength training are realistically attainable by older adults. According to the AARP, those who start strength training even in their 90s can gain muscle and strength in as little as eight weeks. Consider the following suggestions:
1. Warm Up. Walk for 5 minutes to loosen your muscles. Walking will help direct blood flow to your muscles and reduce the chances of an injury. In addition, warm muscles respond better to lifting weights.
2. Wall Push-up. This exercise will help strengthen your arms, shoulders and chest. Stand a little farther than arm’s length from a wall. Face the wall, lean your body forward and place your palms flat against the wall at about shoulder height and shoulder-width apart. Bend your elbows as you lower your upper body toward the wall in a slow, controlled motion as you count to 4. Keep your feet planted. Then, slowly push yourself back until your arms are straight. Avoid locking your elbows or arching your back. Do 10 wall push-ups, rest for a minute and then do a second set of 10.
3. Toe Stand. This move will help strengthen your calves and ankles and assist in restoring stability and balance. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart near a counter or sturdy chair for balance. Slowly push up as far as you can onto the balls of your feet as you count to 4. Hold this position for up to 4 seconds. Then, slowly lower your heels back to the floor as you count to 4. Do 10 toe stands, rest for a minute and then do another set of 10.
4. Stair Step-up. This exercise will help improve your balance and build strength in your legs, hips and buttocks. While holding the handrail for balance at the bottom of a staircase, put your left foot on the first step. As you count to 2, place your weight on your left leg and straighten it as you lift your right leg until it reaches the first step. Then, use your left leg to support your weight and slowly lower your right foot back to the floor as you count to 4. Repeat 10 times with each leg.
5. Bicep Curls. This exercise, usually done with dumbbells, is intended to build strength in your biceps. Sit in a chair and place your feet shoulder-width apart with your arms at your sides with your palms facing your thighs. Rotate your forearms and slowly lift the dumbbells as you count to 2. Your palms should face in towards your shoulders. Keep your upper arms and elbows close to your side, pause and then slowly lower the dumbbells back towards your thighs as you count to 4. Rotate your forearms, so your arms are again at your sides, with your palms facing your thighs. Repeat 10 times, rest for a minute and then complete a second set. AARP recommends the following way to determine the appropriate weight for you: if you cannot repeat eight lifts in a row with your dumbbells, they are too heavy.
No matter the exercise, remember to breathe regularly to keep the blood and oxygen flowing to your muscles. Also, listen to your body; if something doesn’t feel right, stop the exercise. While it is important to incorporate strength training into your everyday lifestyle, it is also critical to not push yourself. Be sure to consult with your doctors before starting a strength training regimen, and visit your doctor whenever you have concerns or questions.