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Strength Training for Seniors

Strength Training for Seniors

Strength training is an important type of exercise, but becomes even more important as people age. Without resistance training, we begin to lose somewhere between 0.5% and 1% of our muscle mass each year.

With this loss of muscle mass comes higher levels of arthritis pain, more difficulty with things like getting out of a chair or going up steps, higher risk for falls and injuries, and eventually the possibility of loss of independence.

Research has shown that people of any age can benefit from strength training, so just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean that you can’t get any stronger. When many people hear “strength training” they automatically picture someone straining under a heavy barbell. However, strength training can be performed with resistance bands, machines, dumbbells, barbells, and many other types of equipment. The key to strength training is that the resistance gets stronger as you do.

The data we have also shows that increasing strength can reduce pain from arthritis, and make things like climbing steps, carrying groceries, taking a bath, and preparing a meal easier. Strength training can also help to reduce your risk of falls and maintain your independence.

If you’d like to begin strength training and start reaping the benefits, your physical therapist can help you design a plan that’s both effective and safe. They can teach you the correct movements and monitor your progress, helping you increase your resistance the right amount at the right time.

How Much Physical Activity Do Older Adults Need

How Much Physical Activity Do Older Adults Need?

Most people know that physical activity is important. In fact, not getting enough has been linked to illnesses like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, high blood pressure and lung disease. So the important question is not if you need to be doing some form of physical activity to protect against diseases like these, but how much is enough?

The US Department of Health and Human Services answered that question for us in 2008 with their recommendations for physical activity. To improve or maintain health, adults over 65 need to do 2 types of physical activity: aerobic exercise and strengthening.

Aerobic Exercise

To meet the recommendations for aerobic exercise you should try to be active daily, and perform your aerobic activity for at least 10 minutes at a time. Each week you should aim for

150 minutes of moderate intensity activity
OR
75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity.

The general rule is that 1 minute of vigorous activity is equal to 2 minutes of moderate intensity activity, so a combination of moderate and vigorous activity can also be used to satisfy the recommended 150 minutes each week.

Some examples of moderate intensity aerobic activity would be:

Walking
Water aerobics
Riding a bike on a level surface
Doubles tennis

Vigorous intensity activities include:

Running or jogging
Riding a bike fast, or on hills
Singles tennis
Hiking uphill

Strengthening

Muscle strength is important for all daily movement, and in older adults it can help to maintain strong bones, as well as reduce the risk of falling. The recommendation for strengthening is to work each major muscle group twice a week.

Examples of strengthening activities include:

Carrying heavy loads
Lifting weights
Exercises using your own body weight like push ups, sit ups, or squats

For each exercise you should try to perform:

At least one set
8 to 12 repetitions in each set

Your resistance should be heavy enough that the last repetition is hard to complete.

These guidelines are general recommendations and do not take into account previous injuries, medical conditions, or limitations that individuals may have. Your physical therapist is an expert in exercise and physical activity who can help design a program to maintain or improve your health while considering your past medical history, limitations, and goals. Your PT can teach you safe exercise technique, and help you safely progress your program as you get fitter to continue making improvements in your overall health.