• Dale Cronin

Strength Training For Older Adults Over 60

Prescribing Strength Training Programs for Older Adults over 60

Step #1: Implementing a pre-exercise screening tool

It is important that a pre-screening assessment is undertaken, especially for those new to fitness training and for older adults. A screening process will help to identify those clients over 60 with medical conditions who may be at greater risk when exercising. Fitness Australia advocates the use of an extensive pre-exercise screening tool and strongly advise you to consult with health professionals before starting a new fitness program.

Step #2: Determining baseline fitness assessment

Older adults should take a baseline fitness assessment to determine their current exercise tolerance and to define their limits. If it is to be effective, a strength training program should be properly matched to the individual, with exercises prescribed at the intensity, frequency, and duration that the person can perform.

Step #3: Designing a program

The Australian Government’s Department of Health has released Australian Physical Activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines. The recommendations for older adults include light strength training 2 to 3 times a week, using exercises to work all the major muscle groups of your body (i.e., legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders and arms). It is important for older adults to apply only low levels of impact on the muscles to avoid injuries. Elastic band exercises, for example, are ideal.

Step #4: Starting strength training

Take time to learn the skills and correct techniques for exercising and lifting weights. Develop awareness of how to exercise safely. This will be very important for reducing your risk of injury and making your program effective.

A typical beginner’s program will involve 8 to 10 exercises across the body’s major muscle groups in 2 to 3 sessions per week. The average amount of repetitions for each exercise is usually 8 to 12.

There is a range of strength exercises available for you to work into your program. Be guided by your fitness instructor. Good instruction will advise you on why you are doing each exercise and learn how to do each exercise properly.

Step #5: Monitoring progress

It is important to maintain a strength training program that results in muscle gains. Sometimes, a doctor or health care provider neglects to emphasise this. Under-dosed strength training programs are relatively ineffective and should be avoided. Instead, your program should have a goal of increased strength as compared to your original baseline measurements. The aim is to maintain good technique and use a resistant force/weight that will challenge you. Regular adjustments to the training variables (frequency, duration, sets and repetitions) will make you progress and improve.

Foster a safe and supportive environment, Provide opportunities to socialise (e.g., over a cup of coffee after each session) Allow time for muscle recovery between sessions – at least 48 hours is usually required.Integrate cross-training with strength training, to support cardiovascular and aerobic development.Provide ongoing education, training and monitoring of skills and techniques for performing strength exercises effectively and safely.

If you’re interested in taking the first step towards a fitness career, check out our 5 CEC and 2 PDP course titled Creative Exercises for Older Adults