In Part 1 of Seniors and Exercise, we discussed walking, and in Part 2, we discussed stretching. Another aspect of your exercise regimen should be resistance training, also known as weight lifting. But you don’t necessarily need gym weights; you can also use resistance bands or a combination of free weights, weight machines, and resistance bands. If you are recovering from an injury or from surgery, your doctor or physical therapist can direct your rehabilitation with specific resistance exercises and may even provide the appropriate resistance bands.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Seniors Health suggests 10 strength exercises for both the upper and lower body that you can do at home with minimal equipment, and doing simple exercises at home is certainly convenient if you don’t have an available gym. However, if you live in a community like Sun City Carolina Lakes (SCCL), you have access to a world-class gym as well as to professional and volunteer trainers.
Some of us have been in and around weight rooms since high school. And when we were younger, we lifted with abandon, not really considering proper form or possible injury. Now, as I look around our gym at SCCL, for the most part, the men and women I see lifting free weights and using weight machines have outstanding form, which is both safe and efficient. Nevertheless, although a few folks flail, most of the people I see who are regulars at our community gym have had some excellent coaching somewhere along the line.
Why lift? There are two main reasons, with the NIH stating the most obvious: “Strength exercises build muscle, and even very small changes in muscle strength can make a real difference in your ability to perform everyday activities like carrying groceries, lifting a grandchild, or getting up from a chair.”
The second reason is it just feels good, and not in the sense that it feels good to be done. Lifting weights can be very relaxing. It certainly can be calming. Just focus on form and breathing. Your repetitions for each exercise can vary, usually between 10-12 reps and three to four sets of each repetition. There are some folks I see who are mad scientists about their workout. They have a detailed plan and keep an equally detailed journal. On the other hand, there are folks who will take an available bench and proceed through 45 minutes to an hour of whatever suits their fancy.
Again, we are blessed in our community with fitness classes taught by certified instructors. If you do not know your way around a gym, there is no better way to learn proper techniques and gym etiquette than from an instructor. We all had to learn sometime and somewhere. And if you join a fitness class, you will probably exercise more often and enjoy it much more than trying to exercise on your own.
As I said at the beginning of this series, the greatest benefit to good health is independence. A regular fitness regimen can mean years of added self-determination as well as an opportunity to enjoy friends and family. Add resistance training to your stretching and your walking regimen; the variety will break up the routine and add a different dimension to your overall health program.