Research supports the safety and benefits of participation in a regular resistance training program for adults over the age of 65. Overall body strength can lead to great gains in everyday function, from getting out of a chair and climbing the stairs to playing with your grandchildren. Enhanced strength leads to greater independence.
If you have been sedentary up until this point, you may not know where or how to begin. Getting started with a strength training program doesn't require expensive equipment or a gym membership. Items found around your house will suffice nicely. A tennis ball can be used for handgrip exercises. Soup cans and milk jugs can subsitute for free weights, as can sacks of sugar or flour. Strength training exercises that incorporate use of these items are found below. Do not feel that you have to be limited to using items around your house; if you prefer, these exercises can be performed with free weights or equipment at a fitness center. The exercises are demonstrated in the seated position, however, they can be performed in the upright position based on your fitness level.
Before beginning a strength training program, consult your physician first to ensure that you do not have any underlying medical issues that have to be addressed before you can safely start. Based on your current condition, you may need to begin with a light load to avoid excessive muscular discomfort and injury. You should feel that it is a challenge to lift the weight 8-12 times per set. However, you should not perceive the load to be unbearable to lift near the end of the set. Once you are consistently and comfortably lifting the weight 12 times per set, you can increase the weight you lift for that exercise. If this is your first experience with resistance training, you may further reduce your risk of musculoskeletal injury by choosing a light weight that you can lift 10-15 times per set. Some mild muscular discomfort is to be expected. However, if you experience severe discomfort that does not subside in a few days, you should seek medical attention.
Prior to performing your strength training exercises, make sure you do a 5-10 minute warm-up to increase the blood flow to the working muscles. This can involve performing calisthenics and/or slow walking. As you lift the weight, make sure to breath. Exhale as you lift the weight or exert the force. Do not work the same muscle groups 2 days in a row. For example, if you performed upper body strengthening exercises on Monday, Tuesday should be devoted to performing lower body resistance activities. This will give your muscles a chance to recover before they are exercised again.
Handgrip Exercise - strength developed from this exercise will make opening jars and picking up items easier.
Step One: Hold a tennis ball in your right hand.
Step Two: Squeeze the ball as hard as you can. Hold for a count of five. Slowly relax your grip to the starting position. Repeat. Perform 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions per hand.
Wrist Curls - strength developed from this exercise will aid in lifting and carrying grocery bags as well as the activities listed for the handgrip exercise.
Step One: Rest your arm on the arm of a chair or the edge of a table with your hand hanging over the end. Hold the weight with your palm facing up.
Step Two: Slowly lift the weight by bending your wrist toward your elbow. Gradually lower the weight to the starting position. Repeat. Perform 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions per wrist.
Seated Overhead Arm Raises - strength developed from this exercise will help with lifting and carrying grandchildren and baskets of laundry.
Step One: Sit (or stand) with your feet shoulder width apart. If you are standing, your knees should have a slight bend and your back should be kept straight. Your arms should be extended out to your sides at shoulder level. Your elbows should be bent 90 degrees. The weight should be held with your palms facing away from you.
Step Two: Slowly extend your arms above your head. Hold for a count of two. Gradually bring your arms back to the starting position. Repeat. Perform 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions.
Seated Biceps Curls - strength developed from this exercise will aid with lifting and pouring from water pitchers and milk jugs. It will also help with lifting and carrying trash bags.
Step One: Sit (or stand) with your feet shoulder width apart. If you are standing, your knees should be slightly bent with your back straight. Your arms should be down at your sides. Hold the weight with your palms facing toward your body.
: Slowly lift the weight toward your chest by bending at your elbow (you can lift both arms at the same time or you may choose to alternate arms, lifting with one, then the next). Hold for a count of two. Gradually lower the weight to the starting position. Repeat. Perform 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions.
Seated Triceps Extensions - strength developed from this exercise will help with pulling down window blinds and shades.
Step One: Sit (or stand) with your feet shoulder width apart. If you are standing, your knees should be slightly flexed and your back should remain straight. Your shoulder should be extended with your elbow bent at 90 degrees and the weight held behind your head, level with the top of your ear. Use your opposite hand to support your elbow of the hand that is holding the weight.
: Slowly extend your elbow toward the front of your body. Hold for a count of two. Gradually return to the starting position. Repeat. Perform 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions per side.Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.
Labels: resistance training for older adults, Upper body strength