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Sunday March 18, 2018

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

Strength Training Tips

I've fallen several times over the past year and my doctor has recommended that I start a strength training program to help prevent future falls. But at age 72, I've never lifted weights before and could use some help. What can you tell me?

Weak leg muscles and poor balance are two of the biggest factors that cause seniors to fall. Most people begin to lose about 1% of their muscle mass each year beyond the age of 40, which really adds up over time. But study after study has shown that it's never too late to rebuild muscle through strength training.

Resistance exercises and strength training can help you build muscle strength, increase your bone density, improve your balance, coordination and stamina and will help prevent falls. It can also help reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions like arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, back pain, depression and obesity. Some studies even show that it helps improve cognitive function too. Here are some simple ways to help you get stronger.

Getting Started

After you get your doctor's approval, consider working with a professional trainer or physical therapist for a few sessions to help you develop a safe and effective routine you can continue on your own. You might also go to GrowingStronger.Nutrition.Tufts.edu for a free program from Tufts University in Boston and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Also see Go4Life.NIA.NIH.gov, a resource created by the National Institute on Aging that offers a free exercise guide, which includes illustrated examples of exercises you can do at home to strengthen your body. You can order free copies online or by calling 800-222-2225.

To improve your strength, you should try to exercise at least two or three days a week for 30 to 45 minutes, increasing resistance and the number of repetitions over time. Be sure you give your muscles a day off between workouts. It makes the muscle stronger and better equipped to resist future injury.


If you work out at home, you will probably need to invest in some equipment. While some strength training can be done using your own body weight (like push-ups, sit-ups and squats), hand weights, ankle weights, medicine balls, resistance bands and rubber tubing are all great tools for strength training. You can find all these products at sporting goods stores or online for around $10 or less. Cans of soup, water bottles or plastic milk containers filled with water or sand may also be used (in place of small hand weights) for resistance.

Senior Classes

If you don't like exercising alone, consider joining a gym or call your local senior center to see if they offer any strength training exercise classes.

You should also check out SilverSneakers (SilverSneakers.com, 888-423-4632) or Silver&Fit (SilverandFit.com, 877-427-4788), two fitness programs offered in thousands of fitness centers, gyms and YMCAs throughout the U.S. that offer special classes designed for older adults. These programs are available for free to seniors who have certain Medicare supplemental policies or Medicare Advantage plans.

Aerobic and Balance Exercises

Some other good fall-prevention exercises that can help you get stronger include aerobic activities, such as walking, cycling and water aerobics. If you would like to improve your balance you might consider tai chi or a number of simple balance exercises that you can do anytime. These include standing on one foot for 30 seconds then switching to the other foot and walking heel-to-toe across the room.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published February 9, 2018

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