Circuit Training for Seniors

Exercises performed with free weights improve functional strength.
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Regardless of how fit you are, regular exercise provides plenty of benefits for seniors, including improved memory, greater physical capacity and better overall quality of life. A circuit training workout specifically can increase strength, reduce muscle atrophy, develop balance and improve cardiovascular health.

About Circuit Training

Circuit training involves moving through a course of several resistance exercises, performing eight to 20 repetitions of each and relocating to the next with minimal rest between sets, then repeating the circuit for the duration of the workout. Compared to resistance or cardiovascular exercise alone, circuit training provides a particularly efficient total-body workout.

Developing Strength

Because lower extremity muscle weakness is a major contributing factor to falls among seniors, focus at least half of your circuit training workout on strengthening the legs. Include standing exercises such as squats and shallow lunges, along with a few seated exercises using machines, including leg presses and hamstring curls. Focus upper body exercises on developing functional strength by performing movements in all planes of motion: forward and backward, side to side and with rotation. Select exercises such as standing biceps curls to an overhead press, lateral wood chops, and lat rows with rotation.

Improving Balance

Incorporate balance training into your circuit workout by performing the majority of exercises while standing. If this provides no challenge, increase the instability by standing on one foot or on an unstable surface, such as a soft mat. A study published in the April 2012 issue of the journal “Clinical Rehabilitation” found that a combined strength and balance training program improved postural control among elderly women.

Sample Workout

Perform 15 repetitions of each exercise with little or no resistance to start. Work up to using heavier weights so you can only perform up to 12 repetitions. Do these: squat with biceps curl and overhead press; Russian twist abdominal exercise on a mat; leg press machine; standing triceps extensions; dumbbell bench press; standing wood chops with dumbbell; shallow lunges with lat row. Repeat the circuit twice.

Tips & Warnings

Always consult your physician before beginning an exercise regimen. Begin your workout with a three- to five-minute warmup consisting of slow walking and active stretching. During your workout, ensure you progress at an appropriate pace for your fitness level and seek assistance from a spotter when lifting weights overhead. Stop during any exercise in which you feel dizzy or out of breath, and talk to your doctor before resuming exercise.

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