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Is Resistance Training Safe/Appropriate for All Elderly People?

By: Dr. Arti Patel, PT, DPT, CSCS

A combination of exercise, nutrition, and recovery is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. There are many types of exercise forms people participate in such as cardio-based workouts, flexibility/mobility, balance/coordination, and resistance training. Resistance training involves working against some force to improve muscle strength. If you see pictures of the gym or belong to a gym, your first thought might be on how there are so many different types of exercise equipment and sets of dumbbells. If you are over the age of 65, you may be interested in using the equipment or dumbbells but wonder if it is safe for you to use.

As mentioned above, resistance training involves the use of some external force that resists your force. Dumbbells, bands or your own body weight can be used to provide the resistance. Resistance training has been used to increase strength, increase metabolism, decrease risk of heart disease, increase bone density, improve performance, and improve mental health.

As you can see resistance training has many benefits to improve daily function and overall health. A study by Steele et al showed how resistance training was well-tolerated among 61 to 80-year-olds to improve strength, function, and wellbeing. In addition, Lopez et al. performed a systematic review on resistance training in frail elderly and found that strength training is an effective treatment to improve functional capacity and muscle mass.

Resistance training is also safe and improves bone function with women over the age of 60 who have low to very low bone mass. The participants performed exercises consisting of deadlifts, squats, jumping chin-up/drop landing, and overhead press. There was improvement in spine and femoral neck bone mineral density and improvement in lean mass.

With the benefits of resistance training and being able to perform safely, you will notice a difference when you begin to add strength training exercises into your program!

If you have been inactive or concerned about your health, consult your doctor before increasing your physical activity, and receive clearance.

When starting a routine, begin with a warm-up such as walking or riding the bike before jumping to the exercises. Perform your desired exercises and end the work-out with a cool-down consisting of stretches and breathing work.

Listed below is a chart that can help you determine how many sets/repetitions to perform with each exercise.

Your 1 repetition max (1RM) is when you can only do 1 repetition at a certain weight of an exercise.

Resistance training is safe for the elderly population and there are many benefits to include 2-3 times/week of resistance training. Begin with bodyweight exercises and slowly increase your repetitions and include weight into the program. If you have health concerns, talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

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