Weight Training for Strength, Stamina and Stability

Do you know that strengthening your muscles boosts your energy levels and helps improve your balance?  Spending the last two weeks of August with my mother has made me more aware than ever of the importance of weight training.  At more than 92 years of age, she has always been an active woman, motivated to exercise.  She loves it all – aerobic activities like the stationary bike or the seated stepper; working out with weights; yoga and stretching; balance training.

Following an injury a year and a half ago, Mom completed several rounds of physical therapy and then continued to do all the exercises on her own.  Her daily routine included a vigorous series of bodyweight exercises to strengthen her legs and flexibility exercises to keep range of motion in her hands and fingers, which are limited in function due to arthritis. 

I noticed, however, that her walking ability has suffered over the past couple of years and that one leg in particular has become considerably weaker.  When we rode the elevator from her eleventh floor apartment to the lobby of her building she had to perch on the stool since she doesn't have the stamina in her legs to stand for those few minutes.  Her equilibrium has also declined and she has serious balance issues.

I was delighted that she was amenable to going back into the weight room.  She's begun using the seated stepper again, and it was gratifying to see how easily she was able to adapt to the equipment based on the years of using it in the past.  Since it has levers for upper body involvement, it will help strengthen her arms, as well as her legs.  We made a plan for her to use it 2-3 times a week, to do her chair yoga class once a week and on the other days to continue with the bodyweight exercises she learned in physical therapy.

Studies have shown that the frail elderly – even those in their 80s and 90s - can improve their strength, stamina, stability, walking speed and balance in as little as eight weeks of strength training three times a week.  We are never too old to begin a strength training program, and the sooner we start, the longer we benefit.