Seniors and Resistance Training - The How's and Why's
What can be more inspiring than watching Usain Bolt sprint for an Olympic gold you ask? Well for starters, try watching the senior games or the senior Olympics as they were formerly known. Watching sprightly septuagenarians perform feats any 35year old would struggle with, or watching 100-year-olds set new 100-meter sprint records, it becomes evident that these are no ordinary senior citizens, these are super seniors, who have made regular exercise a part of their lives for longer than most of us have even existed.
Regular exercise, especially in the form of strength training has been shown to greatly impact the quality of life of seniors, mainly because an improvement in strength and balance brings about a greater sense of independence.
Even without the presence of any chronic conditions, aging is known to cause a decrease in muscle mass, and a decline in strength and stability, leading to a drop in resilience, leaving seniors more vulnerable to falls. Over time this leads to diffidence in performing routine activities, which further restricts their movements.
Benefits of resistance training for Seniors
Resistance training is a form of strength training that is done using resistance bands, loops, and tubes that are made of rubber. These resistance bands provide the right tension for muscles to work against, thereby facilitating muscle growth while building stability.
It is recommended that people across ages should try to achieve at least 2 twenty-minute sessions of strength training per week involving all the major muscle groups, to prevent muscle atrophy, and resistance training is a great way to achieve this. Here are some of the reasons why resistance training is great, especially for older people.
It’s easy on the joints
Bone deterioration is often a result of aging, as is gradual wear and tear of cartilage, so seniors most often need a workout plan that won’t put their joints under undue strain. Resistance training supports and protects joints by stabilizing and strengthening the muscles around them. By employing all the stabilizing muscles around a joint, it becomes possible to work the muscles without putting pressure on the joints.
It Improves Stability
One of the biggest perils of old age is the instability that comes with muscle weakness. By being able to gradually rebuild muscle with varying levels of resistance, it is possible to regain stability, which translates into being able to move more confidently.
It offers easy adaptability
Resistance training can be easily adapted to suit specific needs that senior citizens might face. It is possible to incorporate resistance training into seated postures and even while lying down. This allows greater flexibility when it comes to the rehabilitation process. Moreover, being lightweight, resistance bands are easier to handle for older people.
It helps build bone health
The risk of fractures and osteoporosis increases with age due to a decline in bone density, and in seniors, fractures are the most common risk of a fall. Research has shown that weight-bearing exercises such as resistance training can bring about a significant improvement in bone health, reducing the risk of any breaks.
It is good for mental health
Old age brings with it restrictions. From leading an independent life to being afraid to move, it can be a scary and often lonely experience. Exercise can make seniors feel more empowered, and confident, offering them an opportunity to be independent once more. Resistance training offers a way to rebuild strength, stability, and range of motion in seniors, thereby vastly improving their quality of life.
It’s for all fitness levels
One of the best things about resistance bands is that there’s one for everyone, from beginners to those with more experience. With varying degrees of resistance, you can start simple and increase resistance gradually with more practice. AS with any exercise program, and especially when it comes to senior citizens, it is always recommended that exercises be performed under proper supervision. Here are a few exercises that are especially great for seniors, and all it takes is a resistance tube.
- Chest pull
While sitting on a chair with your back straight, hold both ends of the resistance tube in either hand. Have your hands out in front of you, with a gentle bend in the elbows. so that the resistance tube runs parallel to your chest. Take a deep breath in and as you exhale, extend your arms out to the side, stretching the resistance band as you do. Go as far as you can comfortably before returning to the starting position as you do.
- Bent over row
While sitting on a chair, with your feet firmly on the floor, hip-width apart, place a resistance tube under your feet and hold both ends in each hand. Slowly bend forward so that your chest is parallel to the floor. Take a breath, and as you exhale, pull each end up with your hands so that you can feel your shoulder blades moving towards each other. Gently release and go back to the starting position.
- Leg press
Lie down face up on a comfortable surface. Bend one leg at the knee and place the resistance tube under this foot while holding the ends in each hand. Take a breath and as you exhale extend the leg out straight. Gently return to the position as you inhale and repeat with the other leg.
- Hip extension
Using the door anchor fasten one end of the resistance tube securely. While holding onto firm support, loop one foot into the open end of the resistance tube. With the other foot firmly planted on the floor, extend the leg looped to the resistance band gently backward, as you exhale. Go only as far as you are comfortable. Return to position while inhaling. Perform on the other side.
With a single resistance tube, it is possible to perform a full-body circuit across all major muscle groups. With time, as you are comfortable, you can upgrade to a higher resistance level, or perform more repetitions at the same resistance level. This will in time, strengthen muscles and bring more stability to your gait. Research has shown that exercise can be supremely beneficial to older people, yet few exercise regularly. It’s never too late to start, and with a little bit of help, you can lead a more confident and fulfilling life.