With the wide publicity America is receiving in regards to the growing obesity rate, there are countless programs designed to lose weight and get in shape. Strength training has obvious benefits to those looking to burn calories otherwise stored as excess fat.
What is not so widely talked about is the benefit that strength training can provide to older adults.
When a strength training program is begun slowly and maintained consistently, there are multiple health benefits even if you are not physically active or in the best health when you start.
Of course, if you are under a doctor’s care for chronic health conditions you should discuss your exercise plans before you begin. Follow any recommendations your doctor gives to benefit from increasing your physical activity.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has put together information and resources to help older adults begin a strength-training program.
People struggling with serious health concerns such as diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis often benefit most from a consistent exercise plan including strength training.
Tufts University exercise research laboratory has numerous studies showing that regular strength training can decrease arthritis pain, restore flexibility and balance reducing the risk of falls, and increases bone density among post-menopausal women between the ages of 50 – 70.
Improved glucose control for individuals diagnosed with diabetes is also a well documented benefit of strength training.
Do not make the mistake of thinking a beneficial strength training plan has to involve lifting heavy weights or spending hours in the gym. The CDC website recommends a strength training plan researched and developed at Tufts University. This plan will help you make strength exercise a part of your regular activities.
Most simply use your own body weight to move through a series of exercises designed to help with functional fitness, those types of activities you do on a daily basis that may become a bit harder to do if you struggle with arthritis, muscle weakness, or loss of balance.
A few exercises recommend the use of light hand weights but most individuals will find hand weights and wrist or ankle weights in the 1-5 pound range more than adequate for their needs.
A program of regular strength training can improve your mobility, flexibility and balance in as little as 12 weeks. Improved muscle strength makes everyday tasks easier to preform, reduces risk of falling due to loss of balance or weakness and increases your confidence to remain independent for as long as possible.
Speak to your doctor regarding any health concerns you may have then set some goals to improve your physical strength and mobility.
To increase your success in your new exercise plan take these simple steps.
• Set clear goals.
• Identify your motivation to get in shape.
• Believe you can do it!
• Celebrate your progress. No need to wait for a huge breakthrough, celebrate the small victories along the way!
For more information and tips to get started, check the CDC plan, Growing Stronger – Strength Training for Older Adults.
It is never too late to improve your strength and overall fitness levels.
Growing Stronger-Strength Training for Older Adults, (n.d.), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Online here