Friday, December 7, 2007

Strength Training for Seniors

Many older folk think of Strength Training as a young person's pursuit. It's true that there are more young people lifting weights than there are elderly lifters, but that doesn't mean that the senior citizens among us shouldn't be lifting. In fact, the opposite is true. Lifting weights offers many benefits to its age-advanced practitioners:

Increased strength

This one's pretty obvious. If you lift weights, you'll get stronger. If you're stronger, you can more easily perform everyday tasks such as carrying groceries, cleaning dishes, even tying your shoes.

Improved bone density

Bone responds to weightlifting in much the same way as muscle. As you place progressively heavier loads on your bones, they respond by becoming stronger and more dense. In fact, Strength Training can help prevent osteoporosis and may even help decrease its effects.

Increased flexibility

Many people think of flexibility as muscle "looseness," which isn't necessarily the case. What we experience as being flexible or inflexible is really just our body protecting itself. Any time you move a certain appendage or joint beyond the normal range of motion that it experiences in everyday life, your brain sends a message saying, "Warning! Possible danger! Protect yourself!" and your muscles tighten in response. Lifting weights helps your body re-learn to use its entire natural range of motion, thus increasing your effective flexibility.

Reduced blood pressure

Yes, your blood pressure increases slightly while you're lifting weights, as it does during any strenuous activity. However, weight training decreases resting blood pressure and therefore decreases the risk for and severity of cardiovascular disease.

Less pain

In addition to strengthening your muscle and bone, weightlifting also strengthens your tendons, ligaments and joints. This can decrease pain caused by arthritis or other joint conditions.

Improved mood

It's long been known that exercise can help alleviate depression, and this includes Strength Training. The feeling of accomplishment and increased independence that comes from becoming stronger and better able to perform everyday tasks as a result of Strength Training can improve anyone's mood.

Easier recovery

Whenever you lift weights, you're putting your body under stress. Your body reacts by using its recovery systems to repair the damage caused by this stress and strengthen the affected tissues and structures. These recovery systems are the same recovery systems that would repair your heart after a heart attack or mend a broken bone, and by using them regularly via Strength Training, you're keeping them sharp and ready to quickly repair any injury you might sustain.

Elderly people who want to take up Strength Training should proceed carefully -- consult a doctor and find a trainer or a supervised Strength Training program that you can attend. Make sure you're executing all the exercises in your program properly, start with a light weight, and add weight progressively in small increments as you get stronger. A properly planned and executed Strength Training program will give you all of the benefits listed above with very little chance of injury. So get to it!

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