Strength Training Benefits and Guidelines for Seniors

It's important it is to stay active as you get older. If you exercise regularly, that's a good thing. But you have to do more than just stay active if you want to stay healthy and strong. You have to lift weights.

Lifting weights isn't just for athletes or bodybuilders. It's for everyone, especially older adults. It's by far one of the most important things you can do for your body.

Benefits of Strength Training

Strength training can:

How to Set Up a Strength Training Workout

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Heart Association (AHA) Physical Activity Recommendations for Older Adults suggest a program that includes eight to 10 exercises involving the major muscles of the body: the chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, legs, and core. Use enough weight so that completing at least one set of 10 to 15 reps is challenging, but possible.

Do this program two or three nonconsecutive days a week. Rest days allow your muscles to repair themselves and grow stronger while also allowing your body to recover.

If you're just getting started, begin with two days of strength training per week with at least one day of rest in between. As you get stronger, you can add a third day of strength training. On off days, do a cardio workout (such as swimming, walking, or bicycling) or rest completely.

Choose Your Exercises

If you are doing your strength training workout in a gym, you can use machines to do leg presses, chest presses, seated rows, lateral raises, trunk curls, or back extensions. If you don't know how to use the machines, ask a staff member for a tutorial. They are there to help.

Of course, you don't need gym machines to strength train. You can also do exercises that use body weight and handheld equipment such as dumbbells, resistance bands, medicine balls, or kettlebells. For example, try:

Choose Your Weight

The ACSM/AHA guidelines suggest one set of 10 to 15 reps. Start with a weight you can lift 15 times to get used to the exercises. Gradually increase the weight and reduce your reps as you get stronger. This takes some experimentation, so it's best to err on the side of caution and choose a light weight at first to get your form down.

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