Women gradually lose muscle mass as they age and hormonal changes accelerate bone loss. But exercise can help counteract the effects of these changes. Strength training, in particular, leads to stronger muscle and bones and improves our sense of balance too, reducing the chance of falls. If you don’t know how to begin an exercise program, the following tips may help you get started.
Before you begin any exercise plan, see your doctor. Depending upon your medical history, your doctor may be able to refer you to a physical therapist or exercise specialist for a specialized evaluation and fitness plan. Many fitness centers offer an initial screening evaluation when members first join, too. Exercise is such an important part of remaining healthy as we age that many Medicare supplemental insurance programs offer Silver Sneaker programs, which pay for members’ gym memberships.
Strength Training Safety
Some common mistakes new exercisers make include:
· Holding their breath when lifting weights. Breathe normally but with a controlled inhalation and exhalation.
· Going overboard at the beginning. When you first start strength training, your muscles will be sore, and that’s normal. Pain, however, is not. If you push yourself too far on day one, you may be too sore to maintain your workout schedule.
· Using too much weight. Only use the weight or dumbbell that allows you to perform the exercise with proper technique for the required number of repetitions.
Establish your on and off days with the help of your trainer or a reference book. When strength training muscles, it is particularly important to give muscles time to rest and regrow. Improper technique can lead to injuries and will make your exercise routine less effective.
Strength Training at Home
If you are limited to a home exercise program, you can still perform a number of exercises, including:
Squats: Stand with your legs shoulder width apart. Hold light dumbbells in each hand, elbows bent at a 90-degree angle. Squat by bending your knees and lowering your body toward the ground. Simultaneously, do a bicep curl with the weights. Stop your squat when your rear is aligned with your knees. Stand up slowly, lowering your weights back to your side. Repeat this exercise 15 times, rest, then repeat 15 more times.
Pushups: Keep your core muscles tightened throughout the exercise. Put your palms on the floor shoulder width apart with your fingertips pointing inward. Bend your elbows until your nose nearly touches the floor and then straighten your arms to raise your torso. Try to do five to 10 pushups at the beginning, and increase your repetitions when your strength increases. If this exercise is too difficult, you can do a pushup while standing, using the wall.
Dips: This exercise will require stairs, a stable table or some other platform. Sit on the elevated area with your hands on either side of your body with your legs extended. Using your arms, lower and raise your body weight. Try to repeat this exercise five to 10 times, rest and repeat.
Exercise programs require planning, discipline and persistence. Even if you plan a home exercise program, it is safer to begin your routine under the supervision of a professional trainer who can ensure you are using proper technique with each exercise and performing them safely.
Danielle, who blogs on behalf of Sears and other prestigious brands, enjoys wearing sleeveless dresses to show off her toned arms, thanks to her regular dumbbell exercise routine. Read her work at eatbreatheblog.com.