Exercising is important, no matter a person’s age. A few of the many benefits include improved coordination and balance, a healthier vascular system and increased ability to fight infection.
While age-related changes may affect the type of exercise a person can perform comfortably, there are some exercises that seniors can do to help promote good health and well-being.
For seniors, strong muscles can mean the difference between living independently or needing assisted living or full-time care.
Strength training, or resistance training, is a group of exercises that are focused on enhancing muscular strength and endurance. Resistance training forces muscles to move against tension. Additionally, for seniors, it is beneficial to help fight bone loss and the symptoms of arthritis pain.
Participating in resistance training at least two to three times weekly can help improve muscle strength, balance, flexibility, range of motion and coordination.
One of the most important things to remember when beginning an exercise regimen is that you are a “beginner.” You don’t have to (or need to) do ten sets of fifteen to get the job done.
In fact, starting slow and building your way up to longer workouts is best. Muscles will ache and tire, especially in the beginning.
Beginning an exercise regimen can feel a little overwhelming at first, especially if you’re not sure which exercises are best for you.
It’s important to remember that individuals have different strengths and weaknesses and you don’t have to be in competition with what you think someone else can do.
When beginning resistance band training, start out with the band that has the least resistance. Once you are able to do three sets of 10 of a particular exercise, you can then progress to the next resistance level.
Benefits of Working Out With Resistance Bands
Like any exercise or workout equipment, there are benefits to using resistance bands. Some of the most common benefits include:
● They are inexpensive, which means most people can afford to purchase one. In fact, some resistance bands can be purchased for less than $10.
● Resistance bands come in different levels of flexibility which means individuals can choose the amount of resistance that is needed. Also, different bands can be used as one gains strength and needs a more challenging workout.
● Resistance bands, when used correctly, can help the user to work muscles throughout the whole body.
● They are small and easy to store. Even seniors who live in small apartments or assisted living facilities have enough room to store a resistance band.
Examples of Resistance Band Exercises
Exercises are divided into two main categories: Upper body exercises and lower body exercises. As the name indicates, each category targets different muscle groups in the body.
Exercises should be performed on both sides of the body.
Upper Body Exercises
When performing upper body exercises, it is important to use proper posture to protect your spine and joints. Sit or stand up straight with your feet on the floor.
Hold your shoulders back and tighten your stomach muscles. When the muscles that help provide good posture are strong, you will find that performing daily tasks, such as opening doors or lifting small objects is easier.
A few examples of Upper Body Resistance Band exercises include:
1. Biceps Curls: Place one end of the band under your left foot. Hold the opposite end of the band in your left hand. Keep your arm straight by your site. Bend your elbow as far as possible against the resistance of the band. Hold for two to three seconds. Then slowly lower your arm.
2. Shoulder Extension: Secure the resistance band at overhead height. Straighten your elbow and raise your arm to shoulder height. While keeping your elbow straight, pull your arms down until it is at your side. Slowly return to the starting position.
3. Chest Pull:This exercise will help target arm, abdominal and back muscles. Sit on a sturdy chair with your back straight. Grasp each end of the resistance band and hold the band in front of your chest.
Pull the ends of the band as far as you can, trying to straighten your arms. When you’ve pulled the band ends as far as you can, inhale, exhale and then slowly return your arms to the starting position.
4. Lateral Raise: This exercise can be done while sitting in a chair or standing, depending on your preference. Place your resistance band on the floor. Place both feet in the middle of the band.
Grasp each end of the band and raise your hands to the height of your shoulder. Return to the starting position. The muscles of your arms, back, leg and neck will feel this exercise!
Lower Body Exercises
This group of exercises is done in a standing position. If you have trouble with balance, you should consider beginning these exercises while someone is present to spot you.
Also, you can perform these exercises while holding the back of a chair for support.
1. Hip Extension: Loop the resistance band around your ankles and shift your weight onto the leg closest to the chair. Keep your knee straight and lift your leg straight back behind you. This exercise will help strengthen the muscles of your buttock and thigh.
2. Hip Flexion: Like the Hip Extension, exercise, you will keep the resistance band looped around your ankles. Lift one leg straight out in front of you as far as possible (without leaning backward). Slowly lower your foot back down to the ground and repeat.
3. Hip Abduction: Loop the resistance band around your ankles. Stand on the leg that is closest to your chair. Lift your opposite leg out to the side, without leaning your upper body. Keep your knees straight. You will feel the tension in the muscles on the outside of your hip.
4. Squats: Stand with both feet in the middle of the resistance band, flat on the floor. Grip both ends of the band. Keep your back straight and slowly bend your knees, as if lowering to a sitting position. Raise to a standing position and repeat.
5. Leg Press: Sit in a sturdy chair and keep your back straight. Hold both ends of the resistance band. Place one foot in the middle of the band and the opposite foot flat on the floor. The band should not be on the floor. Bend your knee, as if drawing it toward you and then straighten it again in front of you. Return to your starting position and switch to the opposite leg.
Exercise Guidelines for Seniors
Maintaining a healthy weight and staying active can help counteract the effects of aging on the mind and body. Fall prevention, management of medical conditions and increased mobility are a few of the positive effects of maintaining good health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals should exercise a minimum of 150 minutes per week to maintain a normal weight. The CDC also recommends strength training at least two days per week.
The best form of exercise for seniors is a combination of both cardio exercises, balance, flexibility and strength training. One of the best ways to provide resistance is the use of resistance bands.
Resistance bands are strong, elastic bands that one can use to exercise all parts of the body. They are lightweight and are less expensive than other gym equipment.
Safety Tips for Resistance Band Use
Any exercise regimen should include safety tips and protocol. First and foremost, if you are unsure of the safety, or your ability to perform an exercise without injury, don’t do it. If the balance is a concern for you, but you really want to work out, consider exercise with a friend or other support person.
When using a resistance band, it’s important to remember:
● Inspect your resistance band frequently to ensure that it is in a safe condition, as they can break down over time due to normal wear and tear from use. If there is any sign of breakdown, discard the band and get a new one. Do NOT try to repair the band.
● Never release a resistance band while it is under tension. This can cause the band to snap back toward you and could cause injury.
● Begin exercises with a resistance band that has a low tension resistance and build yourself up.
● Never stretch a resistance band more than 2 times it’s normal length.
● Always exercise on flat, even surfaces. Uneven surfaces can cause balance issues and may result in a fall or injury.
Resistance training exercises for seniors can make a huge difference in overall health. Before starting any exercise program, it is a good idea to speak with your primary care physician to discuss your goals and any concerns you may have.