Strength training is an important component of a senior exercise program, helping older adults avoid age-related muscle loss, bone loss, and loss of flexibility. Lifting weights and using machines both provide benefits, but many seniors prefer to use resistance bands. Do these stretchy implements provide a good workout? Yes, if you use them correctly, say experts from The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR):

Strength TrainingElastic tubes and bands are now available for virtually all levels of strength training, and they’re inexpensive and easily stored. You need to use the right band or tube to match your strength level and the particular muscle group being exercised (chest presses, for example, need more resistance than the arm curls that exercise your upper arms).

When working with an elastic tube or band, you secure it under your feet or around a heavy piece of furniture or a pole. Focus on squeezing the muscle in use when you encounter resistance as you pull on the tube/band. Stop and pause, keeping the muscle tight when you’ve completed the pulling motion.  Then keep the muscle working as you release the weight slowly, rather than letting it spring back as you return to starting position.

Just as when strength training with free weights or stationary machines, good posture and proper technique are important to work the muscle appropriately and to avoid injury.

You can use many of the same exercises you may have learned with other forms of strength training, but if you haven’t received instruction, it’s best to learn good technique by meeting with a certified fitness trainer at a local facility. If this isn’t possible, check out a recognized fitness organization’s DVD or website. For example, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) offers a free suggested routine with elastic tubing. You also can see how to use a resistance/stretch band in this video from AICR.

Source: Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN for The American Institute for Cancer Research. The AICR focuses on the link between diet and cancer. Visit their website (www.aicr.org) for a wealth of information and recipes for healthy eating.