Growing Stronger: Strength Training for Older Adults

Having a strong mind and a strong body will increase the likelihood of remaining independent as you age. Strength training is the key. Getting started can seem like a daunting challenge—”I don’t know what kind of exercises to do?” “I have never exercised before.” “I’m too weak to exercise.” The Centers for Disease Control and Tufts University have a simple exercise program to get you started on the path to good physical and mental health in your older years.

Growing Stronger: Strength Training for Older Adults is aimed at reducing the effects of sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass and strength which is part of the aging process. Weaker muscles can affect your balance, your ability to walk, and perform even simple household chores. This all adds up to a loss of independence. Strength training, combined with aerobic exercise, can also improve your mood and help you sleep more deeply.

The book offers safe exercises for men and women of all ages, even those who have health concerns such as arthritis or heart disease. The researchers who put together the Growing Stronger tested the exercises on healthy men and women, as well as older people with chronic diseases. They found that everyone benefited from the workout, and some of the people with the most serious health issues benefited the most.

The exercises are designed to be done at home with dumbbells and a sturdy chair. One of the keys to getting the most from the program is eliminating any obstacles that might get in your way. Growing Stronger offers some suggestions. If you think you don’t have the time to get physically stronger, try to get in your strength training in front of the television or computer as you watch your favorite show or a movie. Being in your 70s, 80s, and even your 90s shouldn’t stop you from starting. Realize that your age is not a factor in starting strength training is important. People of all ages have done it before you. Health issues are real, and concerns that you can’t do the program are understandable. That’s why it is important to speak with your doctor before starting this or any exercise plan. She or he will likely tell you it is okay to exercise, but start slowly and build yourself up.

Growing Stronger is a good basic guide to strength exercises that you can do in your own home. The most surprising thing about the book is that it was first published in 2002. The least surprising thing is that researchers today are saying the exact same thing—strength training will help you build muscle mass, a necessary ingredient in maintaining vitality and independence as you age.

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