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Strength Training Tips And Exercises for Older Adults

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Strength training for seniors does some basic things: it preserves bone density and muscle strength, and improves balance and flexibility, all which help to maintain daily living independence. Regardless of your level of fitness, age or gender, strength training benefits everyone.

Bone Density

Osteoporosis in older adults is a major cause of frailty and can affect quality of life, especially after a fall resulting in a broken bone. For reasons not yet fully understood, but supported by several study results, strength training not only increases muscle strength and mass, but also strengthens bones and increases bone density.

Muscle Strength

Weight or resistance training not only prevents further muscle mass depletion, but it actually improves the strength of the muscles by toning them up; it can even build back some muscle mass lost over the years through aging. Tone muscles make you look younger and feel better about yourself.

Balance

With falling as a major source of injury and broken bones among seniors, it is important to do what you can to maintain or improve balance. Strength training helps build and tone the abdominal core and back muscles, thus giving your spine more support. By keeping your posture more upright, your weight more centered over your spine and you are less likely to lose your balance and fall. Supplement strength training with exercises that transfer weight back and forth, such as walking or using an elliptical trainer.

Flexibility

Increasing the range-of-motion of a joint also help with balance. To improve flexibility, focus strength training efforts on exercises that work a joint through its full range. Yoga is an excellent exercise program for doing this.

The Value of Stretching

Dynamic stretching before strength training helps warm up and loosen joint muscles. Because muscle fibers tend to shorten during a workout, static stretching after exercising works to cool down and return the muscle fibers back to their normal length thus helping reduce the risk of injury and soreness.

While dynamic stretching works the muscle back and forth through its range of motion, static stretching extends a muscle out to its maximum range and holds it in that position for a short amount of time.

Exercises that help build bone density, muscle strength and improve balance and flexibility not only include those that use just body weight, but also ones that use light free weights, resistance bands or weight machines.

As with any other exercise program, be sure to consult your healthcare practitioner before starting an exercise program. They can recommend a program according to your abilities. A properly designed program should help you, not hurt you.

4 Top Exercises for Older Adults

For older adults with arthritic joints and the stiffness that goes with it, high impact exercises usually don’t work. However, because older adults know the value of exercising, they adapt and overcome by doing no impact/low impact workouts. Four of the top exercises for older adults include:

Water Aerobics

Doing aerobics in a pool is probably the most beneficial of them all. Not only can you get a good cardio exercise, but strength building too. By using the natural resistance of water, it is a total body workout that is very joint friendly. Exercising in an outdoor pool is best as you can also get the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin D with just 5 to 10 minutes of sun exposure.

If you are in an area with inclement weather in the winter, find an indoor pool at a local health club, YMCA/YWCA or gym.

Cycling

Whether you cycle indoors on a stationary bike or outdoors, cycling is a good lower body workout. To get the maximum benefit, choose a route with varied terrain.

Elliptical Trainer

Friendlier on joints than a treadmill, elliptical trainers work both the upper and lower body without the constant joint pounding of walking or running. Most have a variable resistance adjustment so you can get as good of workout as you want.

Yoga

Not only is yoga joint friendly, it actually improves the range-of-motion of joints by increasing their flexibility. This means less pain and stiffness. Plus two other benefits from yoga are increased breathing capacity (meaning you get a better transfer of oxygen in and carbon dioxide out of your blood) and a better outlook on life from the meditation part.

Just be sure to get in a class geared to your age group and physical ability.

All of these exercises, except the elliptical trainer, can be done outside where your body can soak up Vitamin D and you can breathe in fresh air.

However, when the weather turns bad, all can be done indoors. Without the sun as an older person, be sure to get the daily recommended dose of Vitamin D from either a multi-vitamin or as a supplement.

Vitamin D deficiency is common in older adults. Up to age 70, the daily amount is 600 IU per day; after age 70 it jumps to 800IU.

Without enough Vitamin D, your body will not be able to make use of the calcium you take in each day, thus increasing your risk of osteoporosis through the loss of bone density.

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