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When seniors participate in fitness programs that include strength training, they benefit by much more than a trimmer waistline. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, strength training helps increase overall health in older adults, by reducing the symptoms of many chronic diseases like arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, obesity and back pain. Strength training can also reduce depression in seniors by boosting confidence and self-esteem.
Matthew Barresi is Director of Fitness & Wellness at Westminster Canterbury of the Blue Ridge (WCBR). He has seen firsthand how strength training helps older adults minimize the effects of age-related muscle loss to become more mobile and healthier.
“Building muscular strength allows people to move easier and stay functional in their daily lives,” says Matthew. “This means they will not have to become sedentary, which is so important for overall health.”
Matthew and the fitness professionals at the senior living community are dedicated to helping the residents of WCBR maintain their strength and mobility. “We have a very professional team working with our residents. We work with each individual one-on-one to create a plan that works with their strengths and helps to improve their weaknesses. Each plan is tailored to the person, there is not a blanket approach.”
He explains that though the fitness center at WCBR closed in mid-March due to COVID-19 precautions, the residents were able to take fitness classes through the community’s in-house television station. “We loaned dumbbells to any resident who wanted them and we prepared at-home packets with exercise information and functional exercises they could safely do at home,” says Matthew.
The fitness center re-opened the second week of September under new safety guidelines. “Residents now make appointments to come into the gym,” says Matthew. “They can also arrange one-on-one personal training appointments with the fitness team and have access to the fitness center’s classes and state-of-the-art equipment.”
Matthew’s Tips for Starting Strength Training:
• Start slowly. “Take your time,” says Matthew. “If lifting weights isn’t something you have done in the past, start with light weights or your own body weight and do five to eight reps and build from there. Aim to incorporate strength training into your fitness routine two to three times a week allowing days off for muscle recovery.”
• Find a credentialed personal trainer. “Take a few sessions with a trainer who will develop a safe strength training routine with the basic exercises your body needs to stay functional and healthy. Look for someone licensed by the American College of Sports Medicine, National Academy of Sports Medicine and or the National Strength and Conditioning Association.”
• Don’t be intimidated. “Strength training can be daunting to many people. It doesn’t mean lifting big weights or even any weights. And you don’t have to do anything fancy to build muscle and overall strength. Start by keeping it simple and you will see the benefits.”
• Work with purpose. “One of the things I love about working with older adults is that they are purpose driven,” says Matthew. “They are committed to exercise because it helps them do the things that matter. They want to be able to get down on the carpet with their grandchildren. We focus on helping them meet these real-life goals.”
• Keep moving. “There is a connection between muscle mass and longevity in older adults. Keep moving your body regularly and building strength and you will benefit from an active lifestyle.”
At WCBR, our credentialed personal trainers are here to provide the one-on-one individualized plan to help you reach your fitness goals, feel better and improve your overall health.