The Senior Fit for Life group

Living Well – Strength training good for seniors

Vicky Trill's monthly column of fitness and motivation.

I enjoy coaching people to live active, healthy lifestyles and in order to do this well, I need to be informed of best practices. It is fun to learn, so when I attend a fitness conference it’s difficult to decide which workshops to sign up for because I want to attend them all!

The last time I attended the BCRPA Fit Conference, I decided that I needed more knowledge and tools especially regarding fitness for older adults, so I looked at what was offered and was surprised to see workshop titles like; Power Lifting for the Older Adult and Strength Training for Seniors; I wanted to know more, so I listened to the experts talk about weight training for older adults and what I learned has informed my coaching ever since.

I didn’t imagine that these Fitness for Older Adult workshops would tell me that a 70 or 80 year old should be doing a bench press, squats or sit ups, but that is exactly what I heard.

According to Centres for Disease Control & Prevention, (CDC), strengthening exercises are both safe and effective for women and men of all ages, including those who are not in perfect health. In fact, people with health concerns – including heart disease or arthritis – often benefit the most from an exercise program that includes lifting weights a few times each week.

Strength training, particularly in conjunction with regular aerobic exercise, can also have a profound impact on a person’s mental and emotional health. CDC further reiterates the importance of exercise and strength training: scientific research has shown that exercise can slow the physiological aging clock. While aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging, or swimming, has many excellent health benefits – it maintains the heart and lungs and increases cardiovascular fitness and endurance – it does not make your muscles strong. Strength training does.

Studies have shown that lifting weights two or three times a week increases strength by building muscle mass and bone density. Strength training programs can also have a profound effect on reducing risk for falls, which translates to fewer fractures.

Watching people’s lives transform as a result of regular strength training exercises is a privilege and a joy. Seniors from Ashcroft and Cache Creek have been taking charge of their health and many have transformed from a life of pain, pills, and limitations to active lives filled doing the things they want to do.

One Senior, because of pain, thought it may be time to resolve that the things she once enjoyed were a thing of the past. However, after a few months of regular strength training, she was not only gardening and riding her horse again, she was also able to run!

This is not an isolated story, there are many others like it. It is said that 20 per cent of chronic illness is dependent on genetics while 80 per cent is a result of a healthy way of life. So, if we can do something about chronic illness and our quality of life, let’s follow the example of Seniors in our area and make regular exercise including strength training a part of daily life.

Vicky Trill

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