Getting Started On “Strength Training For Older Adults” – Help From The CDC

Strength training is a critical part of the physical fitness program for seniors. It is just as important as cardiovascular exercise (for example, Walking).

And a good resource for strength training for seniors is Resource (1) Growing Stronger: Strength Training For Older Adults [Full Text PDF]. 2002 From The Physical Activity Website of the Centers for Disease Control.

I recommend that you go to the PDF link above and open Resource (1) and also download the PDF to your computer, tablet or phone. In this post I’ll be summarizing the basic information you’ll need to get started.

And here are the excerpts that you need to know to get started:


Dumbbells (hand-held weights) and ankle weights

You can do the first part of the exercise program without
weights. You will need dumbbells and ankle weights as you
get stronger and add new exercises. It’s a good idea to buy
these before you begin strength training or soon after you
start, so that you’ll have them when you’re ready. You should
buy a set of 2 dumbbells in each of the following weights:
WOMEN                  MEN
2 pounds                  3 pounds
3 pounds                 5 pounds
5 pounds                 8 pounds

The best ankle weights for this program are the adjustable
type. These let you add weight gradually until you reach as
much as 10 or 20 pounds per leg.


For safety reasons, consider storing your weights in a floor level
cupboard or in a container such as a wooden box or
canvas bag—preferably on a cart with wheels so you can
move them easily.


Look at your schedule to see where strength training may
best fit in—perhaps on weekday mornings before work or
during your favorite evening TV show. There are no rules
about the best time to exercise. But keep in mind that you
should exercise on three non-consecutive days of the week
(say, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; or Tuesday, Thursday,
Saturday). This gives your muscles a proper rest. You can
also try doing lower body exercises one day and then upper
body exercises the next. This way, you will avoid overworking
the same muscle groups.

Put your scheduled strength-training appointments on
your calendar and keep them faithfully, just as you would a
doctor’s appointment. You might also try to find an exercise
partner who can join you for your scheduled sessions.
Exercising with a friend will help you adhere to your routine
and keep you motivated.

[Don’t Exercise If You Feel Sick]

[Don’t exercise] if you’re not feeling well—if you think you might be getting sick, coming down with a cold or the flu; or if you have any kind of pain or swelling—take a break from exercising and, if necessary, contact your doctor.

Getting Stronger: A 3-Part Program

The strength-training program outlined in this book has
three phases:

Part I strengthens your body slowly and gently,
using only your own body weight
Part II introduces dumbbells and ankle weights
to increase strength
Part III adds variety with new ways to boost
your strength even more.

The exercises involve lifting a heavy load—either your
own body weight or a dumbbell or ankle weight—by raising
the weight (to a count of two to four) and then lowering it (to a count of four) in a smooth, fluid motion. The full motion is then repeated 10 times to make a full “set,” or group of repetitions.

Here’s a timetable for going through the three parts of
the program:

Part I:                         Weeks 1 — 2
Part II:                       Weeks 3 — 6
Part III:                     Weeks 7 +

Once you have done the exercises in Part I two or
three times a week for at least two weeks, you can safely
move on to Part II. Do the exercises in Part II two or three
times a week for four weeks before you move on to the
exercises described in Part III.

In the next post, Phase I of “Strength Training For Older Adults” – Help From The CDC, I’ll go over the first two weeks of your strength training program.


(1) Growing Stronger: Strength Training For Older Adults [Full Text PDF]. 2002 From The Physical Activity Website of the Centers for Disease Control

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