You may think that strength training is only necessary if you’re super active, but strength training can help every senior during everyday life and help keep you strong as you age. However, you don’t have to lift heavy weights or do difficult workouts in order to strength train. Simple strength exercises for seniors can be just as powerful.
Strength training offers many benefits to seniors, including strengthening your bones, preventing falls, retaining muscle mass over the years, and helping reduce stress and combat depression and mental health issues.
If you’re new to strength training, don’t fear. There are many exercises you can do to work up your strength over time. And as you build your strength, you can do different exercises, but you can always begin with basic strength training exercises and go from there.
You don’t have to do training exercises every day. In fact, it’s not recommended that you do them every day. You can do these types of exercises three or four times a week, but make sure you aren’t doing them on consecutive days.
Here are some of the best strength training exercises for seniors.
Top Strength Exercises for Seniors
Squats are a basic but very effective way to strength train. Squats can also make it easier for you to bend over, pick up things, or climb stairs without injury. To do a simple squat, place a sturdy chair behind you.
Place your legs shoulder width apart, then increase the distance between them just a small bit until they’re a bit more than shoulder width apart. Next, stretch your arms out in front of you, completely parallel to the floor.
Slowly and carefully bend at the knee towards the chair. While you bend, count to five. This gives you plenty of time to complete the bend without injury. In order to ensure your safety, make sure your knees don’t stretch beyond your toes – that’s how you’ll know you’re doing it right.
Hover your body over the seat without actually sitting in the chair; it’s meant to catch you just in case you fall! Now, rise back to a standing position while you do a three-count. Keep yourself as straight as possible, but don’t hurt yourself.
Repeat five times as you begin, working up to 10 times as you become more comfortable. Always stop if you feel pain.
2. Toe Bends
This seems like a simple exercise, but it can be very effective when it comes to building leg strength and muscle. It’s also great for working on your balance and poise, strengthening your core, and ensuring your body’s stability.
Grab your chair again and stand behind it. Make sure the chair is sturdy – preferably one made of wood. Spread your legs until they are shoulder-width apart. Grab onto the back of the chair.
Now, push yourself up on your toes, with your heels rising in the air. Hold the position for as long as you can – try and count to five seconds. Next, slowly go back to your original position with your feet flat on the ground.
Repeat as you can. Don’t overexert yourself, though. If you don’t have a chair that works, you can use your kitchen counter or kitchen island, but make sure whatever you lean up against is sturdy and not going anywhere should you slip.
3. Wall Push-Ups
Though old-fashioned push ups are great for building up strength in your upper body, for seniors it may be a bit difficult to get into the correct push-up position. Instead, alter the push-up a bit to ensure it’s effective without being too hard on your body or too difficult to do.
That’s where the wall push-up comes in. Try to stand within two feet of the wall, but if your arms are shorter, you may need to move a little bit closer. Once you’re comfortable, place your hands, palms open, against the wall at shoulder-width apart.
Make sure your feet are also shoulder-width apart. Now, make sure your body stays as straight as possible, and bend your arms at the elbows as you press your chest as close to the wall as possible. Your feet should come off the ground, and your arms will bend at a diagonal.
Once you’ve done the push-up, use the strength of your arms and hands to push yourself back up and off the wall, while you return to your original position. Start off with two or three of these, work up to five, then see where it goes from there.
If you’re unable to exercise four times a week, even twice a week for 20 minutes is a great place to start!
4. Wall Angels
Do you find yourself dealing with an aggravated back from time to time? Wall angels is a great exercise for helping to diminish back pain and keep your back from feeling out of whack. It will open up your chest and loosen up the muscles, as well as work out your shoulders and upper body.
To do a wall angel, head back to the wall where you did your push-ups. Now you’ll be standing with your back pressed against the wall. Check your feet. They should be at least three inches from the wall, but no more than six inches altogether.
You’ll feel the back of your head touching the wall, and you’ll simply let your arms hang loose at your sides for now. Next, look down to your chest, resting your chin there. Now raise your arms up as high as you can without feeling pain. Avoid bending your elbows.
Now, slowly bring your arms back down to a resting position. Repeat. Feeling your muscles loosen is great, and this is a great exercise for relieving the muscle tension that so many of us carry in our neck, back, and shoulders. It’s also easy enough for anyone to do.
5. Side Planks
Traditional planks are difficult even for people who are in shape! Try this plank modification to garner the benefits of doing planks without the pain and/or injury they may cause!
As we age, our joints start to age, too, especially in our shoulders, causing pain and discomfort that can leave us not wanting to move around as much. Get a hold of this issue and nip it in the bud before it begins by working out this area and building it up – which may allow you to age without the shoulder pain so many suffer from!
To do this exercise, lie on your side. It’s great if you have a yoga mat or something comfortable you can lie on so you don’t hurt yourself, but exercising on carpet is okay, too. Prop up your head on your elbow.
You can bend at the knees if you like or have your legs straight out with your feet on the ground, whichever is more comfortable for you. Now, tighten your core and use your center strength to pull your hips off of the floor. Create a line that goes through your knees or feet, whichever is more comfortable.
Hold this position for as long as you can, using your core to sustain it. Now slowly and carefully lower yourself back to your starting position. Switch sides. Repeat as you can.
How to Choose the Right Strength Training Exercises
Weights vs. No Weights
Though these exercises are all able to be performed without weights, you can definitely use weights to strength train. Simply doing repetitions on each arm will allow you to build strength. However, if you have little arm strength or you just aren’t comfortable using weights, you’ll want to stick to equipment-free workouts.
But, if you enjoy lifting weights and feel you have the stamina, incorporate them into your strength training. You can even do this by attaching ankle weights to your legs while you exercise or grab a couple of 5-pound barbells to lift a few times a week.
Experience vs. No Experience
If you have never done any strength training before, you’ll want to begin with the exercises that are the least intimidating to you .However, once you build up your strength you can move onto other exercises.
So, you may want to start with toe bends or wall angels, then move up to something a little more difficult such as planks or wall push-ups. Only get out of your comfort zone if you feel you can do so without hurting yourself.
Never do more repetitions or exercises that you feel put you at risk or make you feel pain outside of regular muscle soreness. And, after you work out regularly a few times, you won’t have muscle soreness at all!
Men vs. Women
Traditionally, men have a bit more body strength than women, so men may feel they can do a bit more of an advanced workout and maybe even traditional planks or push-ups. If that’s the case, just be careful as you exercise, and you may want to have someone else on hand to act as a spotter.
Women can do anything men can do, but you do want to be mindful of your limitations. You’re not going to jump in and be able to do 20 push-ups if you have never done workouts before. On the other hand, if your active spouse has spent his life walking miles or heaving big boxes at work, he will likely be able to do a bit more than you.
Don’t worry – you’ll get there!