elderly senior exercise

Strength training helps older adults live longer

Have you noticed that your strength is not what it used to be? Getting out of that chair, going up those stairs, lifting up the dog for a kiss. As we age, muscles just become less efficient.

I was quoted last month in an article by Erin Arvedlund in the Philadelphia Enquirer about strength training for seniors.

She asked what I thought of a new study by Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. In this study researchers found, “Older adults who strength trained at least twice a week had 46 percent lower odds of death for any reason than those who did not. They also had 41 percent lower odds of cardiac death and 19 percent lower odds of dying from cancer.”

She thought that was amazing! I agreed. It is amazing. Strength training is like a magic youthful pill. Just take it twice a week and you will get all these rewards.

I get to the gym twice a week for strength training. I make sure to leave a day or two between workouts. This seems to keep me strong and ready for anything the day has in store. Some weeks are harder than others to stay motivated, but I always feel better after working out.

Jack Lalanne, the 1950″s television fitness guru said it well. “It’s a pain in the gluties,” he said. “But you gotta do it. Dying is easy, living is tough. I hate working out. Hate it. But I like the results.”

So I’d like to encourage you to add at least two non-consecutive days of strengthening to your week. You don’t have to go to a gym, though it can be more motivating exercising with others. Get some inexpensive 2 and 5 pound weights at your favorite big box store and start with a few exercises. Try some of these I have on eldergym.com.

Bicep curls
Overhead Press
Upright Rows
Elbow Extensions

I treat many patients after hospitalization, and many are very deconditioned after only one week. No energy, difficulty getting up from bed or a chair, needing a walker, unstable when walking. It is very quick the way we lose muscle and strength.

If you need an easy way to get in shape, improve your strength and balance. Check out my online fitness program.

And remember, it is never too late to strengthen. Senior in their 90’s have doubled their strength with weight training. It is possible. You can do it. I see it up close and personal every day at work.

Try to set up a regular schedule to exercise twice a week. I like Mondays and Thursdays myself. Work your arms, back and legs. Make it a routine  and it will gradually become part of your week. Good luck!

Doug Schrift

Doug Schrift is a Physical Therapist, Certified Geriatric Specialist, and senior fitness coach. Doug helps seniors become strong and stable even if they have never exercised before.