An older man and woman doing bicep curls

Why You Should Be Doing Strength Exercises, Regardless of Your Age

The Benefits of Strength Exercises for Seniors

During regular physical examinations with your healthcare provider, many aspects of physical health are assessed. These may include: weight, pulmonary function, blood chemistry, cholesterol, glucose levels, heart function, and so on. Less frequently assessed, but just as significant, is the aspect of health related to your muscle strength. You might not think about this often, but strength exercises for seniors are important.

Muscle strength has a direct impact on your ability to perform daily work and recreation activities, maintain independence and reduce your risk of falling. Research shows that muscle strength is a vital component to functional independence and health. So why aren’t more mature adults focused on improving their muscle strength?

The Importance of Strength Training

In the past, strength training for older adults had negative connotations. Some people feared that strength training would be too strenuous on their joints, heart, or pulmonary system. Others feared that strength training would lead to bulky muscles and weight gain, and others felt that strength training was only meant for athletes. Many people simply did not know how to begin a strengthening program. Well, the good news is that resisted strengthening exercises are both safe and beneficial for adults of all ages.

Strength exercises for seniors is both safe and effective. Strength training through resistance exercise helps to build new muscle tissue and increases circulation to the muscle group being challenged. Unfortunately, as we age, daily activities are not enough to maintain the strength we had in our younger years. Aerobic exercises like walking, riding a bicycle, or swimming are excellent options for improving cardiovascular health and endurance, but they are not sufficient to improve your muscle strength.

The only way to build and maintain new strength is by actively challenging the muscles to build new tissue.

Benefits of Strength Training

There are many benefits of strength training. Strength training can improve pain related to arthritis by strengthening the muscles surrounding the affected joint. This increased strength and stability can improve joint mechanics and therefore decrease pain.

Strength training also increases bone density by placing healthy stresses on the bone, which encourages new bone growth. This is especially important for aging women, who are more prone to the disease osteoporosis.

Strengthening also helps improve your balance and reduces your risk of falling. In order to maintain proper balance reactions, you must have sufficient muscle strength and flexibility. In particular, strong hip and trunk musculature are imperative in keeping yourself upright and balanced.

Strength training has a significant impact on weight control. As you increase your muscle mass, your metabolism increases. The more muscle that you develop in your body, the more calories your body burns to sustain that muscle. With a higher metabolic rate, it may be easier to lose or maintain weight. Besides improving an individuals’ physical state, strength training can also have an impact on your emotional and mental outlook. People who participate in strengthening programs have improved mental attitudes as well as improved sleep patterns.

Strengthening exercises are meant to make your muscles stronger. The purpose of strengthening exercises is to improve your ability to perform daily tasks by improving your ability to lift, move or push objects. From a bag of groceries to a small child, strengthening exercises will help you carry and lift the things you need to. Strengthening exercises can cause delayed onset muscle soreness the next day, which is a normal result of micro tears in the muscle tissue, as new strength is built.

Where to Start

So, where do you begin? If you are new to strength training exercises, you may benefit from a short duration of supervised exercising in order to be sure that you perform your exercises with proper form (to avoid any potential injury).

You can find a local health club, park district facility, YMCA, ActiveRx Active Aging Center, personal trainer, church group, physical therapist, or any combination of these. There are many options when it comes to strength exercises for seniors.

The good news is that our society is very focused on health and healthy aging right now. There are plenty of resources for those looking to improve their strength. Strengthening can be achieved through body weight resisted exercises, band/tube resistance, dumbbell/bar resistance, and weight machines.

At Home Workouts

If you are looking to strengthen at home, grab a pair of dumbbells and follow along with this total body strengthening routine. Repeat each exercise 10 to 15 times and complete the entire sequence 2 to 3 times each.

  1. Squats: Stand up straight with your feet shoulder width apart. Bend your knees while keeping your feet flat on the ground until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Maintain your spinal posture by pinching your shoulder blades and pushing out your chest. Return back to a standing position for one repetition.
  2. Lunges: Stand up straight with your feet shoulder width apart. Step forward with you right foot, bending both legs until your left knee is a couple inches from touching the ground. Keeping your left foot stationary, push back up with your right leg until you’re standing up with your feet square once again. Repeat the same action with your left foot forward. After you complete the lunge with both legs, you have completed one repetition.
  3. Sit to Stand: Find a hard chair without arm rests. Sit on the chair and cross your arms over your chest. Stand up and sit down without using your arms.
  4. Push-ups: Start by lying face down on the ground with your palms on the ground. Push your body up until your arms are fully extended and you are up on only your palms and toes. Bend your elbows to slowly bring your chest to the ground. Push back up to complete one repetition.
  5. Bicep Curls: Find something in your home with mild to moderate weight that you can hold in one hand. Start with a water bottle. Ideally, use a dumbbell. Hold the water bottle/dumbbell in your hand with your palm forward. Keep your arms at your sides. Bend at the elbow, bringing your hand up toward your shoulder. Return your arm to straight at your side. You should feel the bicep muscle contracting. Complete all repetitions and then perform on opposite arm. As you get stronger, you may fill a water bottle with sand or perform bicep curls with a gallon of milk or other weighted object.
  6. Triceps Extension: Take a light to moderate weight object in your home and hold it above your head with one hand. Next, bend your elbow, so that the object is behind your head and your elbow is pointed up toward the ceiling. Your upper arm should run along the side of your face. From this position, straighten your arm to lift the object toward the ceiling and then bend your arm and return to start. This exercise strengthens your triceps muscle. Complete all repetitions and then perform on opposite arm.