Strength Training – A Powerful Tool For Independence

by | Health

When I first met 70-year old James McGregor (not his real name), weight lifting for seniors was the furthest thing from his mind. He could not get out of a chair without help. His muscle deteriorated after being hospitalized for several months. He was unsteady, needed a walker, and had difficulty navigating stairs. The fear of falling was real for him as he was too frail to get up from the floor.

The idea of returning to his love of golf and riding his bike on the local trails seemed impossible.

Building Strength to Recover from Frailty

Senior weight lifting was James’s path to recovery. In fact, in a few short months, he no longer used his walker. Navigating stairs became easier. His balance improved, and daily living activities no longer required help.

James didn’t stop there; he stuck with his strength training program. He is back out on the golf course enjoying the activities he thought were lost.

Shifting Focus From Cardio to Strength Training

Previous guidelines recommended exercising 20 to 30 minutes a day. Specific suggestions included running, bike riding, or going to an aerobics class. Gyms are full of treadmills, stationary bikes and ellipticals. For over 50 years, exercise has focused on cardiovascular health.

Recently we see a change in exercise guidelines. The National Strength and Conditioning Association now recommends more strength training for seniors. In 2019, they increased strength training to a minimum of 2-3 days per week.

Gaining Strength for Independent Living

We need muscle to get out of a chair, get up from the floor, and to save us from falling. Without physical strength, we become more reliant on assistance in our daily living. And we find it more challenging to keep our independence.

Seniors I work with found training helped alleviate the pain and stiffness of arthritis. Building muscle supports and protects joints. Climbing stairs became less demanding and gardening became a passion instead of a chore.

Senior strength training makes all these tasks more manageable, less daunting, and joyful again!

Other benefits of strength training include:

  • Increased bone density
  • Increased motor control and coordination
  • A decrease in trips falls and fractures

Most importantly, it allows us to continue to pursue the activities we love, like hiking, biking, skiing, golf, or just going for a walk with a loved one.

Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program. Find a qualified personal trainer or coach to learn how to lift weights properly when beginning a strength training program.

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