Effective resistance training can help combat muscle weakness in older adults, writes Dr Balaji Gandhi
Dynapaenia, or muscle weakness, is a common condition that affects older adults. It is characterised by progressive loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength and leads to physical disability and dependence, poor quality of life, higher risk of chronic disease morbidity and mortality.
The best way to combat dynapaenia and its debilitating effects are through dietary interventions and a regular moderate exercise routine. Physical activity and exercise has long been suggested as a treatment to prevent and manage muscle weakness. In particular, resistance training is considered effective as it increases muscle strength by making your muscles work against a weight or force.
However, it is important to choose appropriate exercises depending on your current condition. It would be best to consult a personal trainer before you start.
Eight Easy Exercises
– Clock Reach
You’ll need a chair for this exercise. Imagine that you are standing in the centre of a clock. The number 12 is directly in front of you and the number 6 is directly behind you. Hold the chair with your left hand. Lift your right leg and extend your right arm so it’s pointing to the number 12. Next, point your arm towards the number three, and finally, point it behind you at the number 6. Bring your arm back to the number three, and then to the number 12. Look straight ahead the whole time. Repeat this exercise twice per side.
– Back Leg Raise
This strength training exercise for seniors makes your lower portion and lower back stronger. Stand behind a chair. Slowly lift your right leg straight back – don’t bend your knees or point your toes. Hold that position for one second, then gently bring your leg back down. Repeat this 10 to 15 times per leg.
– Side Leg Raise
Stand behind the chair with your feet slightly apart. Slowly lift your right leg to the side. Keep your back straight, your toe facing forward, and stare straight ahead. Lower your right leg slowly. Repeat this exercise 10 to 15 times per leg.
– Wall Pushups
As long as you’ve got a wall, you can do this strength training exercise. Stand an arm’s length in front of a wall that doesn’t have any paintings, decorations, windows or doors. Lean forward slightly and put your palms flat on the wall at the height and width of your shoulders. Keep your feet planted as you slowly bring your body towards the wall. Gently push yourself back so that your arms are straight. Do 20 of these.
– Knee straight
This exercise is to strengthen your thigh muscles (quadriceps). Sit on a chair with back straight, hips and knees at 90 degrees. Now lift your leg and straighten knee, hold for 10 seconds and then lower your leg. Repeat this for another leg then alternatively. After a few days, you can add minimum weight cuff (1kg) to the ankle and repeat the exercise.
– Shoulder lift
This is for improving shoulder muscle strength. You can use minimum weight of approximately 1kg sand bag / weight cuff. Hold the weight cuff or tie it on your wrist and then lift your hand sideways up to 90 degrees or parallel to the ground like a bird, hold for 10 seconds and then lower your hand. After 10 seconds repeat this 10 times. Now do the same with the other hand.
– Elbow curl
This strength exercise is to improve the strength of the elbow muscles (biceps). You can use a 1kg weight cuff for this exercise. Tie the weight cuff on your wrist and then slowly bend your elbow completely, hold for 5 seconds then straighten your elbow.
– Chest up expand
This is to improve the strength of the upper back and chest muscles. Tie a 1kg weight cuff on each wrist, bring your shoulder and hand forward, keep elbows at 90 degrees, join your both wrists together and then move away each other from forward position to sideways. Then move from sideways to forward and join your wrist.