How Seniors Can Keep – and Build – Important Muscle Strength

June 29, 2018

Each day at The Saybrook at Haddam, residents have numerous opportunities for physical exercise.  Our first-floor gym, which is equipped with cardio and strength-building equipment, is open all day long for residents to use at their convenience.  We also offer different exercise, Tai Chi, and yoga classes, and we host a walking club throughout the year. Most residents enjoy these classes with friends, which adds an important social element to their day.

One of the most important exercises we work on as a group is strength-building with light weights.  Under careful guidance, residents lift weights with their arms and legs, following various forms and repetitions – all designed to improve physical strength. It is interesting to note that seniors can use their own body weight to help build muscle by doing simple leg lifts and arm raises. Either way, these movements are important to help seniors manage daily tasks of living, maintain better balance to help avoid falls or injuries, and simply enjoy a better quality of life.

One of our more popular arm strength exercises is to hold light weights straight down by our sides and lift slowly until they are perpendicular and parallel to the ground. We hold for a second and slowly go down to the starting position before pausing and repeating.  We do other exercises to specifically build triceps, such as lifting a light weight with one hand, bending elbow up to ear and slowly extending the arm to the ceiling. We hold the elbow with opposite hand for support before slowly lowering down. For best results, the American Heart Association recommends doing these types of exercises twice a week.

We are encouraged by what we do when experts tell us how valuable these exercises are.  For instance, Webmd.com points to a review of multiple progressive resistance training, or PRT, studies of 6,700 older participants. They used free weights, exercise machines and/or elastic bands, two to three times a week, increasing difficulty and resistance over time. The study found “PRT produced a large improvement in muscle strength, a moderate to large improvement in doing simple activities such as getting up from a chair or climbing stairs, and a small but statistically significant improvement in doing complex daily activities, such as bathing or preparing a meal. After PRT, people had less pain from osteoarthritis.”

The article quoted researcher Chiung-ju Liu of the department of occupational therapy at Indiana University in Indianapolis who determined “Older adults seem to benefit from this type of exercise even at the age of 80, and even with some type of health condition.” Lu also said the data supported the idea that muscle strength is largely improved after the training, and the impact on older adults’ daily activities can be significant.

Talk to our activities director and wellness team for details on all of the important fitness activities we offer each day.  Let us know if you have a new game or program you would like us to consider for our healthy community – if it gets more seniors moving more often, we are all for it!


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