Patient Daily Living

Why Upper Body Muscles are Important for Seniors and How to Build Them

Anyone who has ever tried to open a new jar of pickles knows just how important upper body strength is. But even some of those younger individuals with good upper body strength can struggle with something like that. Helping your parents to build upper body strength can help keep them independent longer, and able to help themselves in situations such as falling or even just carrying the groceries. Upper body strength plays an important role in the overall functioning of the body. Your parents can easily engage in strength training and increase flexibility and strength.

The benefits of building strength

According to the National Institutes of Health, staying active is the fountain of youth that so many people are always searching for. They suggest that it is the secret to living longer and stronger, as well as helping to prevent and delay the onset of illnesses and diseases. They also report that seniors who engage in strengthening exercises will help to build muscle tissue and reduce the muscle loss that is associated with aging. It's also a great way to increase flexibility, so that there aren't all the aches and pains as they try to get out of bed each morning.

"Helping your parents to build upper body strength can help keep them independent longer and able to help themselves."

Building upper body strength will be helpful in keeping independent, and being able to continue doing a lot of everyday activities with ease. Working out with weights is great, but that may not be ideal for your parents. However, they can still benefit from using just a small one pound weight or arm weight that goes around their wrist. You don't need to sign them up for expensive gym classes, but investing in a small weight can have benefits.

Upper body workout — senior fitness

According to the National Institute on Aging, even making small changes when it comes to strength building can have big benefits, even for those people who may have already lost a lot of muscle. They report that increases in muscle mass that aren't even visible to the eye can still make it easier to get up from chairs or climb stairs. Some of the exercises for seniors to include in the exercise routine to build strength in the upper body include:

  • Arm raise — While sitting down and holding light hand weights, have your parents raise their arms at the same time, holding them straight out, then sideways. They should hold the position for one second and then slowly lower their arms to repeat, and do 8 to 15 repetitions. The back should remain flat against the chair and the feet flat on the floor.
  • Bicep curls — While in a seated position and holding a light hand weight, raise and lower one arm at a time to curl the bicep up. Hold it for one second and slowly lower, then do 8 to 15 repetitions.
  • Tricep extension — In the same seated position as the others, have your parents gently lower the weight behind their back, while using their other hand to support their arm. Hold it for one second and then slowly lower it, and repeat with 8 to 15 repetitions. The opposite arm should always support the one with the weight that is going toward the back.

Doing this helps people of all ages. In fact, Mature Fitness reports the study of research that was conducted on strength training elderly nursing home patients. Their finding was that strength training helped to improve body composition, muscle strength, joint flexibility and improved mobility over the 14-week test period. Strength training exercises should be done at least twice per week. And your parents should not work the same muscle group each day; rather they should vary their routine. Building upper body strength is a good way to keep them active, strong and more able to remain independent.

- Written By

Anastasia Hobbs

Elder Care Expert
With over 20 years of experience in the eldercare industry, Anastasia Hobbs is a true elder care expert. Anastasia is passionate about providing compassionate care for elderly individuals and helping them stay independent.