Weight Training: A Workout That Works for Seniors

We’ve heard about the importance of exercise for adults and children. But what about the elderly? Studies show that cardiovascular exercise and weight training can help prevent disease, improve cognitive function, reduce fall risk, and boost social interaction for seniors, too.

What’s the best way to get started? We consulted Ailinh Tu, Rehabilitation Manager at the Witherell for advice.

“First, seniors should meet with their doctor to get clearance before starting any exercise program,” she recommends. “Once they get the all clear, then I recommend they start with low weights—no more than 1 lb., and then progress upward if they find the exercise is too easy,” Ailinh advises. “ It’s best to work the larger muscles—the arms and legs—and then to give your muscles a break. So don’t work the same muscle group on two consecutive days.”

Here’s a weight training program she recommends for seniors (note: do 1-2 sets of each exercise and 10-15 repetitions):

  • Walking: Add hand weights (1 lb. to start) or leg weights to add resistance and build strength.
  • Leg squats: Holding hand weights, stand up from a chair and lower yourself back down to almost sitting.
  • Biceps and shoulders: Sit in a chair with hand weights. Slowly raise hands to shoulders, then raise arms over your head. Return to start position.
  • Legs: Attach leg weights to both legs. Stand and hold the back of a chair.  Do alternating leg lifts. Then, alternate lifting your knee towards your chest. You can also stand on tiptoes and rise up and down with weights.

“When you first start weight training, your muscles may feel sore and tired,” says Ailinh. “If that feeling persists after the first couple of days, it’s best to check in with your physician.”

The National Institute on Aging offers a range of free pamphlets with specific exercises for seniors that include everything from stretching to weight lifting. In addition, exercise DVD’s and You Tube videos can offer inspiration.

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