The Importance of Strength Training for Older Adults in Everyday Functional Fitness

Posted :
November 20, 2023
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SF Care Services
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Are you noticing everyday tasks becoming more challenging? You’re not alone. Eventually we start finding simple things like carrying groceries or reaching down to grab something  isn’t as effortless as it used to be. This can be incredibly disheartening. That’s when the importance of strength training for older adults comes into focus.

Strength training isn’t just for exercise. It maintains our functional fitness for those everyday activities.

The benefits of weight training for seniors extend beyond mere functional fitness. It improves your mobility, has a positive influence on mental health, helps weight management, and even increases bone density. All of which are essential for sustaining senior independent living as long as possible.

Discover the benefits of strength training for older adults and how to incorporate it into your daily life. So you can maintain independence and enjoy your senior years to the fullest.

Understanding Functional Fitness

Functional fitness is the cornerstone to a healthy and active lifestyle, especially for seniors. Enabling your body to handle real-life movements and activities with less strain.

As we age, our muscles begin losing mass causing us to become weaker. Without sufficient exercise, it could lead to a severe condition known as sarcopenia. This affects our ability to perform even simple activities like walking. Regular strength training can combat the effects of sarcopenia, but you shouldn’t wait to get to that point.

Prevention is always best, so don’t ignore the benefits of weight training for seniors.

Functional Fitness for Sustained Independence

Functional fitness is the ability to do daily tasks easily. Having the mobility to get around on your own and strength to manage your day-to-day life. It’s the key to senior independent living and healthy aging.

Functional fitness focuses on building the strength necessary for:

  • Carrying laundry or groceries
  • Reaching for items on a high shelf
  • Picking things off the floor
  • Getting in and out of a car
  • Going up and down stairs
  • Playing with grandchildren
  • Dressing and bathing
  • Going out and socializing
  • Engaging in recreational activities

Senior man bends over to leash his dog in the park

The Value of Strength Training

Embracing strength training can significantly enhance seniors’ health and quality of life. The importance of strength training as we age includes:

Key Benefits of Strength Training for Older Adults

Integrating strength training into your weekly routine will ensure everyday tasks stay  manageable.

  • Improves Balance: Strength exercises enhance the muscles we use to stabilize our body.
  • Improves Bone Density: Weight-bearing activities increase bone density, helping to prevent breaks​.
  • Reduces Fall Risk and Severity: Better balance means we’re less likely to fall while increased bone density reduces the risk of bone breaking during a fall.
  • Enhances Flexibility and Mobility: Regular workouts maintain joint health which are crucial for daily tasks like bending, twisting, and reaching.
  • Increases Muscle Mass: Counteracts muscle loss by building muscle.

How to Incorporate Strength Training in Daily Life

Strength training (or resistance training) is when muscles exert force against resistance. That resistance can come from using:

  • Body Weight: the weight of your own body to provide resistance.
  • Resistance Bands: tight bands made of fabric or rubber to create resistance.
  • Free Weights: handheld weights or weights that don’t involve a machine to operate.
  • Machine Weights: machines used for manipulating weights.

Incorporating strength training into your daily life is simpler than it sounds. Especially if you’re just focusing on strength training for functional fitness.

dumbbells for exercisingDoing exercises at home that use body weight or resistance bands will be enough. Make sure you vary your exercises to target different muscle groups. You’ll need a full body regimen to maintain functional fitness.

Even other activities like sports, dance, or pilates can help build strength for functional fitness. Supplement the activity with some additional strength exercises if it doesn’t provide a full body workout.

Just avoid anything where your weight is suspended. This includes activities like swimming or aerial yoga. While they have their merits, they can’t be used for strength training. There won’t be enough resistance to build strength if your weight is suspended.

Strength Training and Progressive Overload

Eventually bodyweight exercises will lead to a plateau.

That’s because the strength of your muscles aren’t challenged anymore. If you’re only interested in functional fitness that’s perfectly fine. But if your goal is to keep building muscle strength, you need to continuously push your limits.

This is done through progressive overload — increasing the weights or resistance to maintain a challenge. As the term implies, you do this progressively, over an extended period of time. You can progressively overload yourself by increasing:

  • Resistance: lifting heavier weights
  • Repetitions: how many times you continuously lift weights
  • Endurance: working out for longer
  • Intensity: going at a faster pace with shorter or fewer breaks

You’ll definitely need to hit the gym to keep up progressive overload. Thankfully, there are many gyms for senior-friendly fitness Coquitlam where you can continue your strength training.

How Often Should Seniors Do Strength Training?

It’s recommended that seniors do strength training twice a week. Use one day to train upper body and one day for lower body. Be sure to have a rest day in between.

This helps maintain muscle mass and bone density without overtaxing the body.

Safe Practice Guidelines for Older Adults

  • Begin with lighter weights and fewer repetitions, gradually increasing as strength improves.
  • Warm up with light aerobic movement and stretch after workouts to prevent injury.
  • Focus on form over weight to maximize benefits and reduce the risk of injury.
  • For personalized guidance, seniors should consult with a fitness professional.
  • The workout should be challenging but without pain. Stop and rest for a couple days if you’re experiencing pain or speak to your doctor.

Strength Training for Functional Fitness

Embracing strength training is a game-changer for seniors. Fostering functional fitness to maintain independence and enhance your quality of life.

With the right approach—starting slow, emphasizing technique, and being consistent—seniors can safely improve their functional fitness. Every step towards building strength is a step towards a more vibrant, independent future.

Remember, exercise is only half the battle. You’ll need proper senior nutrition to fully reap the benefits of strength training.