Muscle loss is one of the biggest challenges we face as we age. According to National Public Radio, those over the age of 60 can lose about two pounds of muscle every five years; an average male who weighs 180 pounds may lose as much as 10 pounds of muscle mass over a decade.
But muscle loss isn't inevitable. In fact, older adults who perform resistance exercises, like weight lifting, can not only reverse age-related muscle loss, but actually build new muscle, too. The main benefit of building muscle is to help prevent falls, one of the most common reasons older adults are hospitalized.
An ideal way for older adults with sedentary lifestyles to begin a weight lifting regime is by simply getting in and out of their chairs 10 or more times. According to the NPR story referenced above, using one's own body mass as a dead weight is a reasonable way to start [weight lifting].
Older adults already working toward improving their physical health with exercises, like Tai Chi or water aerobics, can begin at a more advanced weight lifting level. Try incorporating the following three weight lifting exercises:
Squatting is one of the best ways to build leg muscle. To perform squats, stand with your feet should-width apart. While holding a support bar, bend your knees slowly, lowering your body toward the ground. Stop when your thighs are nearly parallel to the ground; then slowly rise to standing position. If you suffer from sore or painful joints, try a leg press machine for results similar to squatting.
The bench press is one of the best muscle-building moves for the upper body because it works the chest, triceps and shoulders simultaneously. To perform a bench press, lie flat on your back on a weight bench with a barbell resting above. Lower the weight to your chest, then press it upward until your arms are fully extended. If you do not have access to a weight bench or barbell, you may alternatively lie flat on the floor, using any appropriate weight (try two soupcans!). Always have a strong spotter with you when performing bench press exercises. You need a person who can easily lift the weight you are working with.
Dead lifts work mostly lower body and back muscles. To perform dead lifts, stand shoulder width apart with your legs straight over an appropriately weighted barbell. Align the joints of your toes with the barbell. Slowly bend at the knees and grasp the barbell, keeping your arms on the outside of your knees. Lift the barbell without bending your torso, keeping your back slightly arched and your head up, and return to standing position. While keeping your arms and back straight, bend your knees, lowering the barbell to the floor, then slowly rise, returning to standing position.
Always remember to consult your doctor before beginning a new fitness routine.
For more tips on helping your body remain strong and healthy, download our free guide, Remaining Active: How to Begin a Regular Exercise Routine by clicking below.