As we age, if we aren’t diligent about preventing it, we tend to lose a great deal of muscle mass. When that’s coupled with a more sedentary lifestyle, we’re more likely to gain weight, which is typically body fat and not muscle mass. That’s why resistance training is an essential part of your routine. There are many benefits to weight training, but the benefits of strength training for seniors are even more potent.
It’s a simple exercise—you push your hips back, as if you’re about to sit in a chair, and then straighten your hips and knees as you return to the standing position—with countless variations. If you belong to a gym, you’ve probably seen a bunch of them, starting with the impossibly strong young men who squat with hundreds of pounds on their backs. Obviously, that’s not the right choice for you. (Or for anybody who isn’t young and injury-free.)
For resistance exercise: You don't need to pump iron in a gym to do resistance exercise. Of course, if you want to go to the gym, I wouldn't discourage you. But if you prefer to do it at home, you can. I recommend exercise tubing if you're looking for a simple but effective way to do resistance exercise at home. Exercise tubing is inexpensive and versatile (you can do lots of very different exercises with them) and they are a great way to get started with resistance exercise. You can start with a set of four for about $20. They come in colors to denote the tension. If you order them, make sure to order the strap that allows you to attach the tube to a door, and if you want to work your legs, ask for leg straps. Here are some vendors that sell them:
In a large study of 439 adults (aged 60 and older) with osteoarthritis who did either aerobic exercise (walking) or resistance exercise (weight lifting) for 18 months, participants in the aerobic exercise group had a 10% decrease on a physical disability questionnaire, a 12% lower score on a knee pain questionnaire, and outperformed non-exercising individuals in the study on the following tests: a six-minute walk test (they walked further); the time it took them to climb and descend stairs; the time it took them to lift and carry 10 pounds; and the time it took them to get in and out of a car. In the weight-lifting, group, there was an 8% lower score on the physical disability questionnaire, 8% lower pain score, greater distance on the six-minute walk, and faster times on the lifting and carrying task and the car task than in the individuals in the study who did not exercise.
Usually associated with the county, senior centers offer a wide variety of services and support, along with social events. Visit your senior center or look for their website online to get more information on what they have to offer. Most sites will provide a list of programs and upcoming events that are open to the public. Getting involved in some social activities will open the doors to meeting others in your community!
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