Senior couple exercising using dumbbells

What Are the Best Resistance Training Exercises for Older Adults?

Staying physically active and eating well-balanced meals is important for individuals of all ages, but even more so for senior adults who want to prevent common issues of aging like osteoporosis and frailty. When exploring the best workout routines for older adults, however, many people tend to sidestep strength training, which can be incredibly beneficial in fighting bone and muscle loss due to aging. But exactly what is strength training for older adults? What are the benefits, and what types of exercises are best for seniors? Learn the answers to these questions below!

Benefits of Strength Training for Older Adults

Strength training plays a considerable role in preventing osteoporosis, not only by building muscle mass, but also by helping your body increase bone density. According to a report from Harvard Medical School, strength training places stress on the bones in your body, nudging your body’s “bone-forming” cells to take action in building stronger, more dense bones.

In addition to preventing osteoporosis and frailty, strength training as a senior can also help reduce signs and symptoms of chronic conditions and diseases such as arthritis, back pain, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

It can even have a major impact on your emotional health: Individuals taking part in a regular exercise routine tend to have better sleep patterns. This increased rest can have positive effects on depression, boosting self-confidence and your overall sense of well-being.

What Are the Best Strength Training Exercises for Seniors?

The best types of exercises for you as a senior will ultimately be determined by your medical history and should be discussed with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine. That said, some of the most common strength training exercises for seniors include both body-weight exercises and exercises with light dumbbells or ankle weights. Below are three popular exercises for both categories:

Body-Weight Exercises (no dumbbells or weights):

  • Chair Squats – this exercise can help strengthen your hips, thighs and buttocks, improving your ability to walk, jog or climb stairs.
  • Wall Push-ups – a modified version of the regular push-up, wall push-ups are a bit easier to perform as you don’t have to lay on the floor to perform them; they help strengthen your chest, shoulders and arms.
  • Toe Stands (with a chair for stability, or on a staircase if you are more experienced) – toe stands help to strengthen your ankles and calf muscles, allowing you greater stability and balance.

Exercises with Light Dumbbells or Ankle Weights:

  • Biceps Curl – use light weights and slowly work to increase repetitions of the exercise to help improve biceps strength for lifting objects day to day.
    Overhead Press – target the muscles in your arms, upper back and shoulders to help make it easier when you are reaching for objects in high locations.
  • Standing Side Hip Raise (with or without ankle weights) – target the muscles in your buttocks, hips and thighs to strengthen your hip bones, which are more vulnerable to fracture as you get older.

Aim to incorporate strength training into your routine at least a few days per week, if possible. However, be sure to give your body enough time to recover between workouts, as exercise recovery does tend to take a bit longer as our bodies age.

So now you know a few different strength training exercises to incorporate, but what exercises should seniors avoid? Again, this will be dependent upon your age and medical history, but the following exercises may create new problems for your body and should only be done with extreme caution and at the advice of your doctor:

  • Weighted Squats – while performing body-weight squats with the assistance of a chair is perfectly fine, weighted squats are more dangerous for seniors as they require strong balance and the ability to support weight on your shoulders.
  • Leg Press Exercises on a weight machine – this exercise, when combined with heavy weight and an aging spine, can cause damage to your spinal discs.
  • Deadlifts – another exercise that requires good balance, the deadlift can be hazardous to a senior’s upper and lower back, especially when combined with heavy weight; opt for a light kettlebell swing exercise instead.

The Highland Difference

Looking for help with strength training as you recover from injury or a surgery? At Highland Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, our person-centered approach to care makes our community the top choice for recovery, rehabilitation and elderly care in Kansas City. Contact us today to learn more.