Strength Training Tips for Senior Citizens by Aaron Dorksen

May 7, 2013 by
Filed under: Articles 

Many senior citizens wouldn’t even consider lifting weights or performing  strength training exercises, thinking that’s something for much younger, fitter  people to do.

A person is never too old to perform strength training exercises, though. In  fact, frequent exercise is the best prescription for independent, active and  healthy aging, according to the A.A.R.P., the National Institute on Aging and  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Studies show that all adults, even seniors, can benefit from as little as 15  minutes a day of moderate cardio exercise. Thirty minutes a day of light to  moderate cardio exercise is the optimum level, and the good news is the cardio  exercises can be broken up into segments (ie: brisk walk in morning, afternoon  swim).

Adults, including seniors, are also recommended to perform strength training  exercises two-three times per week.

Although exercise programs for seniors (generally considered people age 50-60  and older) are modified considerably from what younger generations are doing in  the gym, senior strength training can help people of any age increase muscle  strength, strengthen bones, fight off and-or delay the effects of arthritis, and  improve balance and mobility. Regular exercise is also important to help  maintain strong heart function and a healthy weight.

Jim Androsik, a physical therapist for Wooster Commuinty Hospital’s  HealthPoint Health and Wellness Center in Ohio, has witnessed great benefits  from the seniors he’s worked with who have followed a strength and conditioning  program.

“Generally, the senior citizens we work with are people 60 years-old and up  who are referred to us by a physician,” Androsik said. “Doctors give us some  guidelines, such as the frequency and duration a person should exercise for and  comments on their health in general.

“We then develop a program for them.”

Exercise programs for seniors can obviously vary greatly depending on age and  health, but typically there are basic guidelines Androsik has his seniors  follow.

“We generally recommend that a senior perform strength training exercises two  to three times a week,” he said. “We look at their needs to determine exactly  what exercises they’ll do, such as if they’re experiencing back pain, shoulder  pain, arthritis, etc.”

Here’s a basic exercise program for seniors based on Androsik’s advice and  other research I’ve conducted. Again, these are general recommendations and  seniors should consult with a physician before beginning an exercise program. It  would also be highly beneficial for seniors to exercise as part of a group or  class, to help with motivation, to make sure they’re using the right techniques  and, of course, to enjoy the social aspect of exercising):

Cardio exercise (3-4 times per week)

Tip: Perform low-impact exercises that are easy on your joints. Start very  slowly before increasing duration and resistance. Start with 5 minute cardio  workouts and slowly progress to 15 minutes or more if you can.

Pick from the following: Treadmill, walk on track, exercise bike, pool  workout, yard work, etc.

Weight lifting/strength training (2-3 times per week) Tip: Androsik says it’s  important to do high repetitions on exercises with low resistance or weights. Do  light stretches before performing strength training exercises. Here’s a sample  strength training program a senior might perform:

* Good mornings 1 x 15 (one set of 15 reps) tip: stand straight, slowly bend  down to touch toes or reach down as far as comfortable, rise back up and  repeat.

* Shoulder rotations 1 x 15 tip: stand straight with arms out parallel to  side, rotate shoulders 15 times in each direction. Good warmup exercise.

* Sit Ups – 1 x 15

* Side Bends – 1 x 15

* Squats – 1 x 12-15 tip: Use barbell, machine or without weights. Keep back  straight by looking straight ahead at spot on wall, go down as tolerated but no  lower than parallel with knees.

* Lunge – 1 x 12-15 tip: hold dumbbells to make harder

* Calf Raise – 1 x 12-15 tip: hold dumbbells to make harder or use  machine.

* One Arm Rows – 1 x 12 – 15 tip: balance one knee on bench, other leg on  floor. Pull dumbbell up and down with arm on side of body planted on floor.  Builds shoulder strength.

* Rotator cuff with band or machine – 1 x 12-15 internal rotation, 1 x 12-15  external rotation. tip: have a doctor or trainer show you how to do these, great  for preventing shoulder pain.

* Dumbbell curl – 1 x 12 – 15 tip: do them seated or standing

* Dumbbell bench press – 1 x 12 – 15 tip: do them lying on a bench

* Dumbbell flyes – 1 x 12 – 15 tip: do them lying on a bench

* Triceps extension – 1 x 12 – 15 tip: use machine or dumbbell. This is just  a general plan to give seniors some ideas, but it’s best to work with a trainer.  Tweak as needed. Remember to use light weights and do high reps.

“Exercise can provide lifelong benefits,” Androsik said. “It can minimize or  slow down arthritic changes.”

Basically, exercise can delay the aging process to a large degree in many  people and if seniors find a program they enjoy it can actually be fun. What are  you waiting for seniors – get back into the gym!

Find exercise equipment  stores Arizona and more with our fitness experts. At Home Fitness consultant  Aaron Dorksen’s blog deals with a variety of fitness topics, ranging from  workout tips, motivational ideas and feature stories on how exercise impacts  people’s lives. Consult a doctor before making any significant changes in your  exercise routine or diet. E-mail him with comments, questions or ideas for  future blogs at aaron@athomefitness.com

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