What does quality vs. quantity have to do with older adult fitness? Many times, older adults feel that exercising is not important by expressing “It’s too late” or I’m too old for exercise.” Fear of injury is another expressed concern. Let’s look at the benefits that can be achieved through a weight resistance program and why age is not a factor when it comes to being more fit.
Believe it or not, your muscles do not know your age! Remember that your heart is muscle and that a sedentary lifestyle may increase the risk of having a heart attack. Regular exercise is one way to help reduce heart attack risk. Exercise can easily be adapted to target several different health concerns. Whether you are in a wheelchair, use a walker, need to be seated for exercise, or can dance the night away, exercise should be a part of your life.
What can exercise do for you? Better yet, how can weight resistance, or weight-lifting, benefit the older adult? When you keep your muscles strong, you often have better balance and can likely avoid a fall. This helps you maintain an independent and active lifestyle. Muscle strength is gained by overloading the muscles and weight-lifting will increase strength fastest. Before you begin a strength program, always discuss with your doctor the type of fitness program that best fits you. After receiving your doctor’s clearance to begin a strength program, locate a qualified trainer who can work with you and your needs. Call a church, senior retirement site, or senior recreation center nearest you and ask what programs are offered using weight resistance. Always remember to do a 5 to 10 minute cardiovascular warm-up prior to the stretching segment of your weight-lifting program. You can easily assemble your own weights by placing 150 pennies in a plastic bottle to equal one pound, or a soup can for a half-pound weight. Use proper form when lifting weights. Do not use momentum in order to swing the weight into position. Take two to three seconds to lift the weight, hold for one second, and then take two to three seconds to return the weight to the starting position. Attempt to work very slowly when returning the weight to the starting position. Never hold your breath. Breath in a manner that is comfortable for you. Exhale during the lifting portion of the movement and inhale during the lowering portion. Begin by using no weight and practice the movement until you can do three sets of ten repetitions. Each session, gradually add one to five pounds so that it feels moderately difficult. Do as many repetitions as are comfortable for you without losing proper form or causing the muscle to ache and burn. Pain means “Stop!” Check the movement that caused pain and attempt to change the motion or decrease the weight for a safer movement. Eight or twelve repetitions of each weight-lifting exercise is usually recommended within a ten to thirty minute session. If you can only lift the weight twice in the beginning, that is fine. You will develop more strength as you continue your program. Lift weights only two to three days per week with a twenty-four hour rest period between exercises. Think about adding other forms of fitness such as walking, swimming, gardening, or dancing.
After exercising, “cool down” for a few minutes. Don’t stand still or lie down right after exercising. Walk around for a few minutes to let your body readjust gradually to the decreased physical demands.
Weight-lifting has helped many older adults:
- walk faster
- climb steps easier
- improve posture
- increase energy
- maintain independence
- increase flexibility
- decrease risk of certain diseases
- sleep better
- eat healthier
- and possibly gain a new friend or two!
Don’t be an observer, be a participator and experience a different, perhaps better QUALITY of life. We cannot always control the QUANTITY of our lives, we can, however, improve the QUALITY of our lives!