Strength training for seniors

Strength training for seniors


For older adults who want a healthy, enjoyable retirement, exercise is an important consideration. According to the NHS, adults over 65 who are generally fit and have no mobility-limiting health conditions should be active on a daily basis, striving to achieve one of the following:


• 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (cycling, walking) per week

• 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (running, singles tennis) per week

• A mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity every week (e.g. two 30-minute runs plus 30 minutes of brisk walking) – as a rule, 1 minute of vigorous activity equals 2 minutes of moderate activity


In addition to one of the above, seniors should aim to do at least 2 days per week of strength training that works all the major muscles, including the legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms. This will be our focus in this article.


It’s important to remember that seniors should be cleared by a doctor before beginning any type of physical training regimen.


Key strength training benefits in your older years


Taking part in regular physical activity is an important part of helping seniors restore or maintain functional independence and the ability to perform activities of daily living. Strength training has been shown to combat the effects of medical conditions that are commonly seen in seniors, including osteoporosis, arthritis, high blood pressure, and other age-specific conditions.


Studies show that adults over the age of 50 who do not engage in strength training on a regular basis lose almost ¼ pound of muscle mass each year. Strength training exercises help maintain muscle mass. This is particularly important in the lower body, as strong leg and hip muscles have been linked to a reduced risk of falls – one of the leading causes of disability among seniors. Muscle mass is also a key factor in the number of calories the body burns each day, making strength training an important tool for preventing excessive weight gain in older adults.


Strength training a plays an important role in how the body functions and produces movement. By keeping the skeletal muscles strong and active, seniors can maintain good balance, joint stability, and overall functional mobility to continue their everyday activities with a reduced risk of injury. Rather than simply adding years to their lives, they can add life to their years.


Recommended strength exercises for seniors


Seniors who opt to exercise at the gym can benefit from starting with machine-based training to increase musculoskeletal strength with safety as a priority, since machines offer greater support for the body. Once that foundation is set, seniors can progress to strength training exercises with free weights, moving from light to moderate loads in standing positions.


Machine-based exercise options include:


1. Seated row with neutral grip

2. Lat pulldown with pronated grip

3. Seated chest press

4. Seated horizontal leg press

5. Horizontal cable rotation 


For those who don’t want to go to the gym, there are plenty of home-based strength training options using your own bodyweight or simple tools like resistance bands, a chair, a wall, and/or a light set of dumbbells. This is a great opportunity to focus on exercises that build strength in the primary movement patterns: bending and lifting, pulling, pushing, lunging, and rotating.


Excellent options for at-home strength training include:


1. Squats on chair

2. Supine glute bridge

3. Supine curl ups

4. Resistance band pull aparts

5. Wall or incline push ups 


Safety tips for seniors who strength train


Whether you’re working out at the gym or at home, staying safe is the priority. Here are a few key tips:


• Wear comfortable clothes and shoes that fit well

• Always start with a warm-up of about 7-10 minutes

• Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated

• Avoid exercising outdoors in extreme temperatures

• Use your discretion in determining the appropriate intensity or load for each exercise

• Aim for moderate intensity during strength training

• Stop exercising if you feel pain or other warning signs


Final words


Strength training can be life changing for seniors. In addition to improving overall body function, it can facilitate better sleep, less stress, a sharper brain, improved motor control, and greater emotional well being. 


The time to start is now. If you’re a senior in London, find out how Framework Personal Training can support your strength training journey.

Shaf Saeed