Often, seniors think they either do not need to work out or that they are too old. They think that because they are old, they need to act old. But that is not true. New studies have shown that when senior citizens engage in weight training it helps them with their day-to-day activities. Progressive weight training (PRT) performed with free weights, exercise machines, or elastic bands helps seniors maintain their muscle strength as they age. Daily activities such as getting out of a chair or carrying in groceries will not be difficult, thus making their overall quality of life better.
There was a study done in 1979 that showed that when older people change the way they think of their abilities and themselves, they could then do much more. In this study the old men were told to live like they did 20 years prior and in a 1959 setting. After a week of “living in the past”, the subjects showed noticeable improvement in physical strength, manual dexterity, gait, posture, perception, memory, cognition, sensitivity, and sensory perception.
This study showed how powerful the mind is. The way you think changes the way you act.
Now, how does this story relate to strength training for seniors?
For many of them, they do not allow themselves to try because they feel that they can’t. This study shows however, that they in fact can achieve a lot more by simply changing the way they think of themselves. Strength training is not out of the picture for seniors, it in fact has a lot of benefits. The key to realizing these benefits is to believe in their abilities.
Studies have shown how strength training reduces constipation, and good physical fitness reduces the risk of falls.
For many seniors, constipation is a real pain. Keeping in good physical shape by lifting weights or otherwise incorporating good physical fitness into their lives will get their internal organs into shape. Their organs will be so strong that they will not have trouble doing their intended jobs, which will ultimately alleviate the pain of constipation.
Another big concern for seniors is the risk of falling. Maintaining good physical fitness will help with this area, too. When seniors improve their muscle strength through weight lifting, it gives them a better sense of balance and their chances of falling decrease.
Sometimes seniors think that finding the motivation or making the effort to work out is a hassle. But, if they make the effort, it will no longer seem like a hassle. Instead, it will make them feel better, both physically and mentally.
Here is my experience with a 69-year-old retired businessman. It started because his daughter was worried that her dad was slowly losing muscle mass and he was walking with a slight limp. She asked me to work out with him. He was skeptical in the beginning and for the first four sessions. At first, he was just going along with the sessions, as they were free to him. Also, I went to his place, so he did not even need to travel.
When he went to the doctor for his annual medical check-up, his numbers came back better than they were the last time he was tested. That was great, especially since he had aged. He was encouraged and became more diligent.
Since then, on his own, he would walk after dinner almost every day. He walks leisurely around the neighbourhood for 20min, brisk walks at a slightly higher intensity for 15min and then stretches with cords and body weight for 20min. Finally, he finishes with 10min of balance drills. Even with just once a week sessions with me, he has made great progress!
He still walks with a slight limp, but it is less obvious, and he experiences less knee pain. He is now also able to go shopping for longer periods of time with his grandchildren!
Prevention is better than cure. The investment in fitness gives a better return in the long run!