Resistance training, also known as strength training, is a form of slow, controlled exercise that forces your muscles to perform against tension, such as against an elastic band, free weights or cable machine. Making resistance training part of your exercise routine can help to improve your muscle strength, balance, coordination, flexibility and range of motion while fighting bone loss and easing the symptoms of arthritis pain.
It may surprise you, then, that many adults over the age of 70 aren't reaping these benefits -- about 40 percent of women and 30 percent of men in that age group report that they don't exercise at all [source: Kotz]. And even if you do work out regularly, chances are you skip strength training and go straight for endurance exercises such as walking or swimming. The best workouts are those that include both aerobic activities as well as strength, balance and flexibility exercises. The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association recommend that older adults (ages 65 and older) aim for a minimum of 2 1/2 hours (150 minutes) of physical activity every week, including resistance exercises at least two days every week.
You'll really begin to notice the changes in your body as you go about your daily life. With regular resistance training, you'll notice that doing the things we usually take for granted in our younger years, such as carrying groceries into the house or climbing the stairs, becomes easier.
Let's look at five resistance exercises you can do safely with a resistance band in your own home that will improve both your strength and mobility.
To keep your shoulders and arms flexible, add overhead arm raises to your workout. They may not help you scratch that itch on your back that has eluded you all these years, but they will help you maintain your ability to reach objects in your kitchen cabinets.
Begin in a standing position with your feet a comfortable shoulder-width apart to help you keep your balance. This exercise is done one side at a time -- let's begin with the right side.
- Place one end of your resistance band under your right foot to keep it secure and hold the other end of the band in your right hand.
- Bend your right arm at the elbow -- your elbow should be pointed toward the sky and your right hand behind you.
- Slowly straighten your right arm, extending your right hand toward the sky.
- Hold, and slowly lower your right arm.
- Repeat with the left arm.
As we age, our joint mobility can become compromised, which often means it becomes more difficult to get up from our favorite chair or walk up a flight of stairs. By adding knee extension exercises to a resistance-training workout, you'll strengthen your hamstrings, the back of your upper legs.
Knee extension exercises can be done while sitting.
- While sitting on a sturdy chair, tie one end of your resistance band around one ankle and the other end to a secure, heavy object located behind you.
- Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle.
- Working one leg at a time, slowly straighten your knee as high as you comfortably can against the resistance of the band.
- Slowly bend your knee.
- Relax, and then repeat with the opposite leg.
Incorporating strength exercises that target your upper back and neck muscles may relieve neck stiffness and pain, increase your mobility and reduce the symptoms of muscle loss and arthritis. The practical application? Turning your head to see what's behind you. To strengthen these muscles, grab your resistance band and try a cervical extension neck exercise.
While this can be either done in a standing or seated position, be aware of your head and neck position -- you want to keep your head and neck straight and your chin slightly tucked in.
- Wrap your resistance band around the back of your head and hold its ends in front of your face.
- Bend your elbows.
- Slowly and gently, extend your arms and stretch the band forward -- do not bend your neck.
- Slowly bend your elbows, and repeat.
Do the things you routinely lift -- from milk to your grandkids -- feel heavier than they used to? Try bicep curls. These won't add bulky muscle to your frame, but you'll notice that carrying your groceries into the house gets a little easier.
Begin in a standing position with your feet a shoulder's width apart.
- Place the middle of the resistance band under your feet and hold one end of the band tightly in each hand.
- Let your arms fall to your sides.
- Beginning one arm at a time, slowly and gently bend at the elbow (keep your wrist straight) and lift your hand toward your shoulder.
- Slowly unbend that arm.
- Repeat with the other arm.
About 80 percent of North Americans report they experience lower back pain, and about 85 percent of those report their pain is chronic. Whether you suffer from occasional or daily back pain, a study conducted at the University of Alberta found that resistance training improved participants' symptoms by about 60 percent in just 16 weeks.
To help ease lower back pain and increase the flexibility of your hip joints, try this hip flexion exercise:
- While sitting in a chair, wrap a resistance band around the lower thigh of your left leg.
- Step on the ends of the band with your right foot to keep it in place.
- With your knee still bent, slowly lift your left foot off the ground.
- Lift your foot as high as possible, and then hold it.
- Lower your foot and repeat with the right leg.
HowStuffWorks looks at a study showing just one hour of vigorous activity a week can keep seniors mobile and active.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Growing Stronger -- Strength Training for Older Adults." Feb. 24, 2011. (May 16, 2011)http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/growingstronger/index.html
- Chodzko-Zajko, Wojtek J. et al. "Position Stand: Exercise and Physical Activity for Older Adults." American College of Sports Medicine. 2009. (May 16, 2011)http://www.informz.net/acsm/data/images/exerciseandpaforolderadults.pdf
- Go4Life, National Institute on Aging at NIH. "Try These Exercises." (May 16, 2011)http://go4life.niapublications.org/try-these-exercises
- Kotz, Deborah. "Senior Citizens Need to Work Out, Too." U.S. News & World Report. Oct. 30, 2007. (May 16, 2011)http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2007/10/30/senior-citizens-need-to-work-out-too
- O'Neill, Jim. "Exercise Can Help Relieve Lower Back Pain." HealthGuidance. (May 16, 2011)http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/3568/1/Exercise-Can-Help-Relieve-Lower-Back-Pain.html
- Sports Injury Clinic. "Resistance Band Exercises." (May 16, 2011)http://www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/strengthening/resistancebands.php
- Thera-Band. "Resistance Band & Tubing Instruction Manual: Volume 4." 2006. (May 16, 2011)http://www.thera-band.com/UserFiles/File/Resistance_Band-Tubing_Instruction_Manual.pdf
- University of Alberta. "Use Weights, Not Aerobics, To Ease Back Pain, Study Suggests." ScienceDaily. Dec. 18, 2008. (May 16, 2011)http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081211141848.htm
- University of British Columbia. "Strength Training for Seniors Provides Cognitive Function, Economic Benefits." ScienceDaily. Dec. 14, 2010. (May 16, 2011)http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101213163810.htm
- Westcott, Wayne L. "Strength Training for Seniors." YMCA Greater St. Paul/Metropolitan Minneapolis. (May 16, 2011)http://www.ymcatwincities.org/assets/pdfs/aboutymcapdfs/str_tr_for_seniors.pdf
- Wilbert, Caroline. "Strength Training Is Good for Seniors." WebMD. July 8, 2009. (May 16, 2011)http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/news/20090708/strength-training-is-good-for-seniors