By Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., and Rita La Rosa Loud, B.S.
Quincy – Whether you frequent a gym or not, can we agree that during cold spring months many older adults tend to stay indoors steering clear of any measure of physical activity? We tell ourselves, it’s just too cold outside, and at our age we don’t want to risk falling or slipping on black ice! Although we have good intentions to exercise, and we know that it is good for us for many reasons, we wait until the weather is better outside, rather than going for walks at the mall, joining a senior exercise class at a local health club, or participating in various fitness programs at a senior community center. What if we told you that we can get you in shape in the confines of your home during these cold days using rubberized and/or elastic resistance bands?
But first, it may interest you to know that we conducted an 8-week study with seniors evaluating the effectiveness of resistance band and machine-based exercises. To briefly summarize, the first group of over 55-year-old men and women trained at a nearby 55 plus housing facility using bands, while the second group of over 55-year-old men and women trained at our health and fitness center on resistance-machines. Both groups (33 participants) trained twice weekly, supervised by nationally-certified fitness instructors. Each group performed a similar number of comparable resistance exercises. The resistance band group progressed to stronger bands, while the machine-based group stepped up the resistance by five pounds at a time. All participants were measured for various health parameters at the onset and conclusion of the study. We discovered that while the machines were more efficient than the bands, the use of resistance bands were shown to be equally effective for developing muscular strength. That’s good news for stay-at-home seniors!
Other Benefits of Resistance Exercise
Many research studies, including our own, have shown that resistance exercise offers several significant physical and mental benefits, such as:
What You Need To Get Started
Based on your fitness level, purchase a set of color-coded resistance bands (preferably with handles) and elastic bands via a fitness catalog, an on-line website, or at a sporting goods store (refer to Color Chart). The good news is, these bands are not only versatile and affordable, they are lightweight and can be used anywhere!
Band Placement Guidelines
Band placement will depend on your strength level. A standard stance would be with feet hip-width apart.
How to Handle the Resistance Bands
We recommend the following five sample upper and lower body exercises using resistance bands. Before adding the bands, be sure you are able to perform the exercise in proper form using your own body weight.
Biceps Curl (front arms):
Seated or standing, place band under one or both feet, abdominals contracted. Keep arms and elbows by sides, palms facing up. Curl band up towards shoulders. Pause, and slowly release to start position. Perform 10-15 times.
Triceps Extension (rear arms):
Stand and place one end of band under one foot or both feet, arms extended overhead, close to ears, elbows pointing forward. Hold one or both ends of band (or clasp handles) behind head. Slowly bend then straighten elbows. Perform 10-15 times.
Hip Adduction (inner thigh)
Stand, and wrap band around right foot and create a loop. Step inside loop with left foot to secure band and widen stance. Hold handle with left hand; move right foot across body (back and forth). Perform 10-15 times. Repeat left leg with band around left foot. You may hold on to stable surface for support.
Hip Abduction (outer thigh):
Stand and step on band with both feet. Hold handles at shoulder level, or clasped in front of chest, abdominals contracted. Press right leg outward, toes facing forward. Return to start position. Perform 10-15 times with right leg. Repeat sequence with left leg. You may alternate legs, or place band around mid thighs.
Squat (front/back thighs, hips, buttocks):
Place a chair behind you. Stand on band, feet hip-width apart, toes pointing slightly outward, abdominals contracted. Hold handles by hips; keep weight in heels. Sit back and lower hips towards edge of seat or just above parallel to floor. Keep knees aligned with toes then slowly straighten legs. Perform 10-15 times.
Research has shown that resistance bands and elastic bands are safe, effective tools for increasing strength in older adults. Resistance bands provide resistance in every position rather than just upwards against gravity, as with dumbbells and barbells. They also enable you to perform a wide variety of exercises without changing weights or equipment modalities. Resistance band exercises are easy to learn and typically natural to perform.
About the Authors: Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., heads the Exercise Science Department at Quincy College and co-directs the Community Health & Fitness Center with Rita La Rosa Loud. Demonstrating the exercises is fitness instructor, Pam Hurley.
Reprinted from the March 2019 edition of the South Shore Senior News.