Pre note: This post is part of a series of content aimed at seniors as part of promoting exercise and good health regardless of your age. The content and equipment recommendations in this series aren’t strictly bodyweight and have a higher focus on personal safety and introducing workouts slow and steady.
Read the previous post in the series – 5 Exercise Ideas to Help Seniors and the Elderly Get Fit.
A home gym is an easy way to get the exercise you need without having to sign up for classes at your local gym. It also gives you the freedom to schedule your workouts according to your convenience and you can do multiple short workouts instead of trying to manage a 60-minute workout session.
When picking out gym equipment, you need to make sure that you choose items that are suited to your physical fitness levels and your overall fitness requirements. Here are a few suggestions to get you started on your home gym.
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Resistance bands are elastic bands that are used for strength training and are well-suited for people over 50 since they are simple and easy to use.
This compact and durable fitness equipment allows you to add light resistance to your exercise routine without the fear of injury.
Resistance bands can be used to slowly build upper and lower body strength, increase flexibility and aid in the rehabilitation of injured muscles.
You can select a light, medium or heavy tension band, depending on your current physical fitness levels. If you are transitioning from a sedentary lifestyle to a more active one, resistance bands are the place to start!
Adjustable dumbbells are a great choice for home fitness equipment as they save on space and money!
Beginners often shy away from dumbbells thinking that they are too tough or that they are only meant to strengthen the arms – this just isn’t true! You can get a total body workout using just a pair of dumbbells as they are suitable for a wide range of exercises, from bicep curls to shoulder presses, lunges and squats. Adjustable dumbbells allow you to slowly increase the weight as you go which decreases your risk of overtraining and injury.
Studies show that exercising with dumbbells regularly will also help to increase cognitive capacity so they are a must in any ‘fit after 50’ workout.
Pedal Exerciser/ Hand Grip Strengthener
Research shows that after the age of 50, people experience approximately 15% strength loss every 10 years. If you do not exercise regularly, you are likely to suffer from lower extremity weakness which will affect your mobility and overall quality of life.
A pedal exerciser is a simple and compact machine that helps to strengthen your legs with little to no risk of injury. Similarly, you can use a hand grip strengthener to improve your grip strength. A pedal exercise and/or hand grip strengthener will also help improve your muscle tone and flexibility and prevent joint pain.
Recumbent Bike / Elliptical
A stationary exercise bike provides a low-impact cardio workout and is especially effective for seniors who suffer from joint problems such as arthritis.
A recumbent bike is a type of stationary bike where you are in a reclining position while cycling. This ergonomic design supports your body while you exercise which reduces the stress on your back and neck. It is also much easier to get on and off a recumbent bike as compared to a regular one. If you are more agile, you can choose an elliptical machine instead as it provides a low-impact full-body workout.
A rowing machine is used to simulate the action of watercraft rowing which is an excellent cardio workout. Rowing machines are also ideal for people who have impaired ambulation.
A typical session on a rowing machine lasts 10-20 minutes but it is an intense exercise so you will need to use your machine just thrice a week. You can also include this as part of your interval training workout for better results.
A rowing machine improves strength and endurance and is ideal for those who want to their exercise regimen to the next level!
Ab Slide / Torso Track
Don’t let its small size fool you, researchers found that the ab slide is one of the most effective ab machines available today. This simple and compact piece of fitness equipment targets the abdominal muscles and the back and helps to strengthen the entire core muscles. It also works the muscles of the arms and legs and improves muscle tone.
It is important to use it correctly, as improper technique can result in injury and pain.
Static Stretching Machine
Stretching improves flexibility which increases the ability of your joints to move through their full range of motion. Improving your flexibility will also help you use the right technique when performing other exercises.
Static stretching involves stretching your muscles to the point of mild discomfort for 30 seconds or longer. Static stretching machines are ideal for those over 50 who want to improve their flexibility in order to increase the intensity of their workouts.
Pull-Up / Chin-Up Bar
A pull-up bar (also called a chin-up bar) is one of the simplest pieces of fitness equipment as it only consists of a bar and yet it can help to dramatically increase your fitness levels.
Studies show that seniors require strength training to increase muscle mass, build muscle strength and preserve bone density. You can install a pull-up bar inside your doorway and use it at least 3-4 times a week to work on your upper body strength.
This exercise is also suitable for wheelchair users as it helps to strengthen the back muscles which will help to improve posture and reduce back pain.
Lat pull-down machine
The lat pull-down machine gets its name from the muscle that it targets – the latissimus dorsi (lats). This is the largest muscle in the upper body that starts from under your armpits and spreads across and down your back.
You can adjust your grip to target different muscle groups – a wide grip works your back muscles, a middle-distance grip works your biceps and middle back and a close grip works your forearms. A lat pull-down machine is perfect for those looking to increase their upper body strength.
Choosing the Right Home Gym Equipment for Seniors
When it comes to buying home gym equipment, it’s important to keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Some seniors face mobility issues while others are still running marathons well into their 70s.
Here are a few things to consider when buying your home gym equipment:
Safety is your top priority – you need to be sure that you can get on and off the equipment easily as this will reduce your risk of a fall. Similarly, you should also make sure that it is easy to adjust the resistance on your equipment as lifting weight plates increases the risk of injury.
#2 Start Small
You might be tempted to go all out and splurge on fancy home gym equipment right at the start but it is better to start with just the basics like resistance bands and dumbbells. Once your fitness levels improve, you can slowly introduce new fitness equipment to your home gym and modifying your daily workouts accordingly.
#3 Avoid Quick-Fix Gadgets
From so-called sauna belts that “melt” excess fat to vibrating machines that allegedly “break up fat cells” – the market is rife with quick-fix gadgets that will empty your wallet and provide absolutely no results. When shopping for home gym equipment, make sure that you only invest in machines that will help you exercise and get fit.
Motivation is an important aspect of physical fitness but do not let it govern how long or hard you train. Overtraining can lead to painful muscle spasms, muscle injury or worse. Always talk to your physician before you start a new workout regimen, especially if you suffer from any health issue such as sciatica pain, osteoporosis or arthritis.
Founder of calisthenics-101.co.uk. Training calisthenics since 2012.
Currently working on: 30 second one-arm handstand, muscle-up 360, straddle planche.