Strengthening for Seniors

Muscular strength is a muscle’s ability to generate force. The purpose of strength training is to increase muscle and connective tissue size, density, and toughness. Bigger muscles and stronger connective tissues are less likely to be injured. Strength training will also improve function – or the ability to get out of a chair, climb stairs, walk, and maintain balance.

Strengthening Myths

There are many myths associated with strengthening exercise and unfortunately, they may discourage you from participating in activities that can improve your quality of life.

  • Myth 1 – seniors cannot improve their strength. Wrong! It is completely possible for older people to double or triple their strength in 3-4 months. Can you imagine what you could do if you were twice as strong as you are now?
  • Myth 2 – seniors should not do any strength training. Wrong! Seniors need strength training more than any other age group. As you age you lose strength, muscle mass, and function. The great news is that you can recover much of it. You can also improve your strength in as little as two weeks.
  • Myth 3 – seniors should only participate in low intensity exercise. Wrong again. There are good studies that demonstrate that exercises at higher intensities are safe and more effective. The key is that the resistance must be enough to challenge your muscles.
  • Myth 4 – seniors with health problems should not participate in strength training. You guessed it – wrong again! Resistance training is appropriate for seniors with many health problems and in some cases, may be preferred over aerobic exercise. It is important to consult your physician and physical therapist.

I hope you are convinced that you can and should participate in a strength training program. It is almost a sure thing that you will improve your quality of life. To avoid injury, individualized instruction is necessary. You must use the appropriate resistance and good form to maximize benefits and avoid injury during strength training.
Please consult your physical therapist for more information.

By Dr. Sterling L. Carter, PT, DPT, MS, CSCS