Senior Fitness – Best Resistance Band Exercises for Seniors
Many people during this pandemic, especially seniors, are feeling not only vulnerable but a little helpless and that their independence may be slipping away. This is especially true if they are not able to leave their home. This is a difficult time for everyone, especially seniors. One way of feeling independent is being able to exercise, pushing limits, and getting rid of frustrations. However, this global virus has shut down many gyms, so we cannot jump in our car and go pump iron at the local gym. The solution is to find exercises that can be done safely at home.
Last week I started a series on resistance bands and their many benefits. This week, I will continue looking at resistance bands, sharing some of the best exercises for seniors.
Best Resistance Band Exercises for Seniors
Two of the best reasons for using resistance bands is they are very inexpensive and can be used anywhere. Dave Schmitz, aka “Mr. Band”, researched the effects of resistance bands and noticed how the bands mimic closely the ways muscles work. Weights are only one-dimensional, but resistance bands work in three dimensions, helping with not only building strength but also for rehabbing from injury1. For simplicity’s sake, let’s look at some exercises for the upper body and the lower body.
Upper Body Exercises
I’m not trained in kinesiology, rehab science, or anything closely resembling those disciplines, but suffice it to say, there are a number of exercises that will target specific areas and muscle groups. I don’t want to tread into unknown territory, so I’m going to share only a few basic exercises.
- Overhead Arm Raises – Standing straight, place one end of the band under your left heel. With your left arm, reach back and grab the other end, bending at the elbow. Fully extend your arm upward. Do 5 to 10 repetitions. Repeat on the right side2.
- Chest Pull – “Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and arms extended straight out in front of you, holding the band with both hands. Your hands should be far enough apart that the band is taut, but not stretched tight. From here, draw your shoulder blades together to pull your hands farther apart until your arms are straight out to your sides or as far as comfortable. Pause, then slowly reverse the movement to return to the starting position. That’s one rep3.”
- Biceps Curl – “Stand with your feet positioned shoulder’s width apart. Place the middle of the resistance band under your feet and hold one end of the band tightly in each hand while your arms fall to your sides. This is your starting position. Slowly and gently bend your arms at the elbow (keep your wrist straight) and lift your hands toward your shoulders. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat for the desired number of times4.”
Lower Body Exercises
Functionality means we cannot ignore certain muscle groups, especially as we grow older. Strong leg and back muscles are important for rising, walking, and performing a number of daily routines that often are taken for granted.
- Leg Press – “Sit on a sturdy chair with your back straight. Hold both ends of the resistance band. Place your right foot in the middle of your band. Your band should not be on the floor but your left foot is flat on the ground. Bend your right knee towards you and then straighten it again in front of you. Return to the starting position and switch to the other leg. Repeat for 10-15 times with each leg4.”
- Lateral Walk – “Step into loop band – place band around calves. Stand tall – engage the core. Allow slight flexion in knees. Take a deep breath in – exhale and begin side-stepping to R. Do not let L leg drag; keep flexion in knees throughout the movement. Repeat for the desired number of reps, switch to L leg5.”
- Band Squat – “With your feet hip-width apart, place your feet on top of the resistance band and hold the band in each hand. Raise the squat bands overhead to engage your arms and shoulders for an additional challenge. Maintain a straight spine while keeping your chest up, back flat, head straight, and your elbows back. If you’ve never done a squat on the squat rack, bend your legs as if you were about to sit in a chair. Just make sure your knees never travel past your toes to avoid straining you knees6. “
I’m feeling a bit winded reading what I just wrote. Obviously, growing older is not for the faint of heart. I still have the resistance bands from my ankle surgery and since my gym is still closed, I try to make a concentrated effort to use them as much as possible.
I hope you see how a resistance band workout may be a good way to cheaply exercise at home. The exercises I shared may not be ones you want to do or even try. Not to worry. The internet is full of articles and links with exercises that target specific muscles like the abs or quads. Exercises can also be modified to fit beginners and those who want to be challenged more. Like any workout routine, if you have not worked out in a while, you may want to first consult your physician. Adult children and caregivers need to be aware of this simple option to keep their adult parents healthy and independent.
If you are currently using resistance bands as part of your workout routine, I invite you to share below how it has helped you with your health and independence.