When it comes to exercise there are plenty of misconceptions, such as if women lift weights they will look masculine and bulky, or if you don’t feel pain during your workout, you aren’t working hard enough. Exercise as it pertains to seniors sometimes has some of the biggest misconceptions; and as a personal trainer to seniors I often hear many of them.
For seniors getting into shape, I often hear how they should walk, dance, or pretty much do anything they feel like as long as it gets their heart rate up. Although we know lifting weights is good for people of all ages, for some reason lifting weights is usually not the first option among fitness activity choices. While I am not criticizing other ways to get in better shape for seniors, I believe that there should always be a strength-training component in every workout regime. In this article I will list three reasons why weight training for seniors is recommended and how to incorporate some strength training in your fitness program if you don’t have weights.
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- Activities of Daily Living – Almost every daily activity we do requires strength; simply standing up out of a chair is an activity that you need a certain level of strength to do. The most popular fitness activity for seniors is walking, and although it is great for you, it isn’t strength training.
As people get older, we all lose muscle and strength, and the only way to slow down the process of “atrophy” or muscle loss is to do strength training. Unfortunately, what happens to many seniors who never incorporate strength training into their routine is that they get to the point where they have lost so much strength that activities of daily life become more of a challenge than they should be.
- Independence – When activities of daily life becoming a challenge, the next thing we lose is our independence. Seniors who lack strength are no longer able to lift objects like their groceries, do yard work around their homes, or even climb up the stairs unassisted. In my observations of seniors who are most independent, they typically have maintained a certain level of strength, which makes life easier for them. Staying active and making strength training a regular practice can help to maintain strength as a person ages.
- Balance – Typically the stronger you are, the easier it is to maintain good balance. Having strong leg, core and postural muscles are essential. Lifting weights — and doing squats in particular — are a great way to strengthen the legs and help maintain good balance, helping to minimize falls and give older adults a greater sense of stability.
How to incorporate strength training
- Use your body – If you don’t have weights, your body still weighs something. Exercises such as squats, wall pushups and lunges can all be done with no equipment. Your body creates its own resistance, even without using weights.
- Use household items – Cans of food or anything that has weight, can be used as a piece of equipment. Exercises such as arm curls or shoulder presses are both great with weights or cans of corn.
- The possibilities for adding strength training to your fitness routine are numerous. For seniors, strength training is a great way to not only help them stay active, but stay independent as they age.
About the Author: Eric Daw is an active aging specialist and the owner of Omni Fitt. Omni Fitt is dedicated to the wellbeing, health and quality of life of people aged 55 and over in Toronto. Eric motivates and empowers the older adult population to take responsibility for their independence, health and fitness through motivating and positive coaching experiences.