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Strength training for seniors: 5 health benefits

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As we age, going to the gym or doing exercises at home doesn’t appeal to many seniors. A morning or evening walk works just fine. But ageing is associated with many physiological and functional declines. All this can contribute to falls, frailty and increased disability. Loss of muscle mass and strength as we grow older plays a major role in this. According to a 2003 study published by the National Library of Medicine, strength training exercises can help to combat weakness and frailty. What this basically means is that strength training for seniors has multiple health benefits!

To know more about strength training and ageing, Health Shots connected with Delhi-based certified fitness expert Abhi Singh Thakur.

Strength training for seniors
Strength training for seniors is important. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

What is strength training?

Strength training is a form of an exercise that focuses on improving muscular strength, endurance, and overall fitness, says Thakur.Key aspects of strength training are:

1. Resistance

The use of external resistance such as heavy objects or your own bodyweight to challenge the muscles, causing them to adapt and grow stronger.

2. Intensity

Gradually increasing the load or resistance over time to continue challenging the muscles.

3. Repetitions

The number of times a particular exercise is performed in a set.

4. Sets

A group of repetitions performed consecutively, followed by a rest period.

5. Rest intervals

The time taken between sets to allow the muscles to recover partially before the next set.

6. Progressive overload

The concept of progressively increasing the intensity or resistance of exercises to keep the muscles adapting and gaining strength over time.

7. Compound exercises

Movements that engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously, such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, rows, push-ups and pull-ups.

8. Isolation exercises

Targeting specific muscles individually, such as bicep curls or triceps extensions, calf raise and shoulder side raise.

exercise for older adults
There are many benefits of strength training for older people. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Benefits of strength training for seniors

Strength training becomes increasingly important as people grow older. Here are some benefits of it:

1. Muscle strength and mass

As people age, they tend to experience a natural decline in muscle mass and strength (sarcopenia). Strength training can take care of this by
stimulating muscle growth and improving strength, which is crucial for maintaining independence and performing daily activities, says Thakur.

2. Bone health

Older people are more prone to osteoporosis and bone fractures
due to decreased bone density. Exercises, especially weight-bearing ones, can help to improve bone health and reduce the risk of fractures by stimulating bone remodeling and strengthening.

3. Balance and stability

Strength training exercises that target the core and lower body muscles can enhance balance and stability, reducing the risk of falls, which is a common concern among older adults.

4. Joint health

Making the muscles around the joints stronger can help to improve joint stability and alleviate discomfort associated with osteoarthritis, a common condition among the elderly.

5. Functional independence

By improving muscle strength and endurance, older people can maintain or regain the ability to perform essential daily tasks like walking, climbing stairs and carrying groceries, which contributes to overall functional
independence, shares the expert.

Some of the best strength training exercises for seniors include squats, push-ups and lunges.

But note that when older adults engage in strength training, safety should be kept on high priority. Considering fitness level and any underlying health conditions are also important.

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