Did you know that once you pass the age of the 50, you will begin to lose, on average, 1-2% of your muscle strength each year?! By the time you’re past 60, that number increases to around 3%. This is a normal part of the aging process, but it is also an alarming thought because muscle and strength become increasingly crucial to living healthily as we get older. Weight training is something that we often neglect as part of our regular exercise routine. It can be seen a sport reserved only for bodybuilders and elite competitors, but in reality it's a crucial part of any healthy lifestyle and especially important for seniors.
The health benefits of weight-training are numerous: It builds balance and flexibility as well as strength, all of which are essential for maintaining mobility. It can also counteract back pain and ease the effects of conditions like Osteoporosis. You can also benefit from increased protection against diabetes, better mental health and higher quality of sleep. Research at Harvard University even found that weight-training can protect your mind as well as your body, with a 2016 study finding that such workouts improved participants scores in cognitive testing and that these improvements were likely to last in the long-term. Mobility is the key to staying active and healthy as we age and your muscles are the key to this. When our muscles begin to degenerate we become more and more limited in the exercises we can do and eventually even simple everyday activities like gardening or tasks like opening a jar become difficult or impossible. It is extremely difficult to regain strength in old age when your muscles have deteriorated significantly. Therefore, establishing a regular strength training routine in midlife or as early as possible is key to healthy ageing and a longer life. The thought of lifting weights can seem intimidating, especially as we get older, but with the right guidance and appropriate regime, anyone can build a safe and effective strength training regime. Guidelines for Older Adults Although they are an essential component of healthy ageing, strength exercises are also extremely physically demanding and our bodies are less durable as we get older. This means that, when it comes to strength training, it’s important to understand how to exercise safely and without pushing your body beyond its limits. Strength training should be fun and provide you with visible results, but this will only happen if you are performing exercises correctly and regularly as part of a routine. Here are some guidelines you should follow to ensure a safe and effective workout:
Warm Up: In order to prevent injury and stay fresh between workouts, never forget to warm up before you exercise and always do a cool-down routine for at least 10 minutes after.
Ensure that you maintain good posture in all your movements.
Feeling strain on your muscles is to be expected during strength training, but if you feel pain in your joints, be sure to stop the exercise immediately.
Focus on your breathing during your exercises. Be sure to exhale as you lift the weights and inhale as you bring the weights back to the starting position.
Take your time: All movements should be done in a slow, deliberate manner.
Take it Step-by-Step: If you cannot lift a weight or perform at least 7-10 repetitions then it is too heavy for you. It’s ok to begin with smaller weights that are more manageable and focus on perfecting your movements initially.
If you struggle to grasp and hold weights in your hands then try wrist weights instead.
What Exercises Should You Do? According to official American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines, it is recommended that any strength training program for seniors incorporates 2 to 3 workouts per week, in addition to an active aerobic exercise routine. They suggest that your program should include 8-10 different exercises which target all the major muscle groups: The Chest, back, Shoulders, Legs, Core, Triceps and Biceps. Of course, that sounds straightforward but understanding which exercises to perform in order to target each group of muscles is the most challenging part of creating an effective workout routine. Fortunately, the free MindMate App has detailed video demonstrations of exercises to work each of the major muscles. The exercises in the app are specially designed for older adults, including those with more limited mobility, and are created by trained medical professionals. There are also hundreds of workout tips and plans as well as advice on nutrition and general health.