As we age, our bodies start to change, our priorities shift, and things start to hurt that never did before. Old adults often experience difficulty walking for distances, climbing stairs, or carrying groceries. These changes are largely due to muscle loss which mainly results from inactivity.
In order to help us stay strong and vital during older adulthood, we need to participate in regular strengthening exercises, which can help prevent osteoporosis and frailty by stimulating the growth of muscle and bone. Feeling physically strong also promotes mental and emotional health. Strength training exercises are easy to learn and are safe and effective for the older population. Strength training helps you maintain bone density, improve balance and coordination, reduce risk of falling, and maintain independence.
When starting an exercise routine, always consult your doctor first. It may be beneficial to work one-on-one with an experienced fitness professional to ensure you are performing appropriate exercises or if you have any orthopedic concerns. If starting on your own, start by focusing on exercises which utilize your own body weight, and learning the proper form. By doing so, you will build a base level of strength before adding extra challenges (i.e. resistance bands or dumbbells) into the mix.
Resistance training has been proven to be beneficial for individuals with chronic conditions. In some cases, certain symptoms may be relieved with regular exercise. Here are some of the benefits of common conditions in older adults:
- Arthritis—Reduces pain and stiffness, and increases strength and flexibility.
- Diabetes—Improves glycemic control.
- Osteoporosis—Builds bone density and reduces risk for falls.
- Heart disease—Reduces cardiovascular risk by improving lipid profile and overall fitness.
- Obesity—Increases metabolism, which helps burn more calories and helps with long-term weight control.
- Back pain—Strengthens back and abdominal muscles to reduce stress on the spine.
As always, we recommend that you please consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
By Louise Mills-Strasser, MS, ACSM EP-c