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Fitness for Seniors: Easy Equipment for Weight Training

By Julie Davis

Even though good nutrition is vital for good health, exercise is the key to warding off chronic diseases that threaten longevity, from diabetes to heart disease. And within all the types of exercise you can do, resistance or weight training offers exceptional fitness benefits for seniors. Weight training develops lean muscle tissue—muscle keeps you mobile, enables you to more effectively use the calories you eat and, according to research done at the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility at Vancouver Coastal Health and the University of British Columbia, can even change the progress of mental decline. In two separate studies on people over 65, scientists found that weight training improved the executive cognitive process of selective attention and conflict resolution functions, as well as associative memory, which are strong predictors for mild cognitive impairment leading to dementia.

You might associate this kind of athletic training with rugged athletes hoisting 100-pound barbells high over their heads in a show of might. The truth is that resistance training can be accomplished with even very light weights, such as small dumbbells or resistance bands, lengths of stretchy material with built-in tension. If you have trouble gripping, cuff weights that wrap around your wrists allow you to train easily without actually holding onto the weight with your fingers. And using the same cuff weights around your ankles enables you to do a wide range of leg exercises that you would usually need weight machines for.

Used on the wrists, the cuffs enable you to exercise the biceps and triceps of the upper arm, the forearm, shoulders, the chest and the back with simple movements like curls and arms raises. Used on the ankles, the cuffs enable you to work to muscles of the calves, thighs and butt with simple movements like standing, side and rear leg lifts.

The great advantage to resistance training is that you can accomplish results in limited time. Rather than needed hundreds of repetitions, all is takes to accomplish each weight exercise is one to three sets of 8 to 15 repetitions each; each exercise or movement typically targets one muscle or muscle group. A

Resistance Bands

lower weight and a higher number of reps can be very effective and may be easier for you than a higher weight and less reps. Work with your doctor or a physical therapist to design the right program for your ability and your goals.

One important rule is to give your muscles 48 to 72 hours of rest between sessions to rebuild—that means using your weights every other day or every third day, and never two days in a row. The idea is not to look like a bodybuilder, but to build a body that will see you through activities of daily living, making it easier to care for yourself, to walk for heart health and to stay independent. All that from a pair of weight cuffs!