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Strength Training for Older Adults: Things to Know

As we age, it can sometimes seem inevitable to suffer from loss of strength and energy. Walking, climbing stairs, carrying groceries, and doing other daily activities seems more difficult due to muscle and bone loss. However, this doesn’t have to be the case, and one of the best ways to keep your muscles healthy and strong is through strength training.

If done regularly and properly, strength training can you help build bone and muscle to keep you strong, independent, and full of energy. Here are a few things to know if a considering strength training program.

What Is Strength Training?

Strength training is physical exercises designed to improve your strength and endurance by strengthening muscles, tendons, bones, and ligaments, as well as increasing muscle mass. Strength training can be done using a variety of resistance and with or without equipment, including:

  • Body weight (plyometrics, push-ups, pull ups, abdominal exercises, jumping rope)
  • Free weights (barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, etc.)
  • Machine weights (weight stacks, hydraulics, resistance rods or bands)

Benefits Of Strength Training for Older Adults

It’s important to keep in mind that exercise is a critical part of keeping your body and mind healthy and taking care of our bodies as we grow older is important. Strength training has a number of benefits for older adults as it can help you:

  • Build general strength.
  • Maintain bone density.
  • Improve your balance, coordination, and mobility.
  • Reduce your risk of falling.
  • Maintain your independence in performing daily activities.

Strength training also plays a critical role in helping to prevent and treat chronic diseases like arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, back pain, and osteoporosis. Plus, it can also have a positive impact on your mental and emotional health and help you sleep better.

How To Get Started with Strength Training as An Older Adult

Your body may not work up to the limits it used to, which is why it’s important to do your research and create a plan for strength training in order to reduce the risk of injury and improve your outcomes. The five steps to getting started with strength training are:

  1. Talk with your doctor about if strength training is right and safe for you.

You should always talk to your doctor prior to starting a new exercise program to make sure there aren’t any limitations or concerns you should be aware of. Then, you should keep in touch with your doc about the program and your health.

  1. Think about your goals.

You can have several goals for your strength training program such as generally benefiting from the health and fitness aspects, improving your appearance, having additional social opportunities, having something fun to do, and more. However, to be most successful in reaching your goals, they should be specific, measurable, achievable, and realistic.

  1. Pick a space and buy equipment (if necessary).

Decide if you want to work out at home or in a gym. If at a gym, you’ll need to purchase a gym membership. If at home, you’ll need to create a space you can safely exercise in and you may need to purchase some equipment. The equipment you need depends on your program, but can include a stable chair, good shoes, comfortable clothing, dumbbells, ankle weights, or others.

  1. Consider your schedule and create time for training.

Where does exercising fit into your daily routine? What time of day will you most enjoy exercising? It can be helpful to write your exercise time down on your calendar and treat it as any other appointment.

  1. Consider hiring a strength coach.

A personal trainer has several benefits including:

  • Educating you on health, fitness, and exercise.
  • Ensuring you have perfect form while exercising.
  • Helping you set goals.
  • Keeping you accountable.
  • Ensuring you maximize results.
  • Challenging you.
  • Renewing your confidence.

As an older adult, it can be especially helpful to work with a personal trainer because they can ensure you are exercising safely and effectively for your body and abilities. They have knowledge of the body and limits older adults may have, which can help ensure you aren’t overworking or overusing your muscles. They can also help you strengthen the right areas to help you reach your goals while ensuring you progress properly.

Strength Training Tips

Here are a few tips to follow to help you get started with your new strength training routine.

  • Give your body time to adjust. Focus on performing exercises using your bodyweight first in order to learn proper form and build a base level of strength. This can also reduce risk of injury. Work up to 3 sets of 10-15 reps. Then, when this is easy, you can start adding weights.

  • Start slow. When adding weights, start with the smallest amount possible and increase as you get comfortable. Work up to three sets of 8-12 reps.

  • Avoid overworking your muscles. Aim to strength train 3 to 4 days a week on non-consecutive days, or alternate upper and lower body to avoid wearing out your muscles too fast. Be sure to give your body ample time to recover from each workout.

  • Always prioritize proper form. Without ensuring proper form and progression, you’re significantly increasing your risk of injury. Start by strengthening largest muscle groups with exercises like squats, incline pushups, lunges, etc. This will help build a foundation for completing other activities. Then move to the smaller muscle groups to focus on additional strength.

  • Warming up and cooling down is just as important. Without proper warm up and cool down, your body will take longer to recover, and you can injure yourself more easily during your workout. Dynamic stretches and light cardio can be helpful.

  • Fuel your body with proper nutrition. Eating a healthy diet and drinking enough water is key to your success and will provide your body with what it needs to increase your strength and flexibility while recovering properly.

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