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Strength training for people with long-term health issues

Free Weights dumbells

Strength training for those with mobility issues

For people with long-term health issues, regular exercise can be a daunting prospect. Just getting to a gym or a fitness class can be an effort, let alone actually putting a body that is constantly in pain through yet more stress.

However, advice from health, fitness and medical professionals all suggest that doing regular exercise can help alleviate many of the symptoms and pain suffered by people with chronic conditions. Indeed, there is no reason why anyone, of any mobility and fitness level, can not enjoy the benefits of a good workout.

Make strength training part of your routine

One area that can become very neglected is strength training. People with health issues are encouraged to do aerobic activity, such as walking, jogging, swimming, cycling and other heart-rate raising exercises, but less emphasis is placed on strength training. The benefits of a toned and strong body are wide-ranging. More confidence in your day-to-day life; more able to complete tasks that involve upper body strength; improved body posture; and that tangible buzz that you get from completing a physical workout.

The benefits of strength training are well documented in the medical world. On its website, Harvard Medical School says: ‘Regular physical activity promotes general good health, reduces the risk of developing many diseases, and helps you live a longer and healthier life. But often overlooked is the value of strength-building exercises… strength (or resistance) training is critical to preserving the ability to perform the most ordinary activities of daily living — and to maintaining an active and independent lifestyle.’

Figures from Sport England highlight the fact that just 17.2 per cent of adults with mobility issues or limiting health issues take part in weekly activity sessions, so if you are one of the 82.8 per cent of people who do not do regular exercise, why not introduce some exercises into your life and see the difference it makes to your mood, your health and your fitness levels?

The benefits of strength training

Helps combat osteoporosis, a condition in which skeletal muscle begins to weaken and deteriorate.
It helps with balance – good muscular strength and tone helps us maintain good balance.
Back problems can be improved with strengthening of the muscles around the spine.
Obesity problems can be reduced with a regular strengthening programme.
Exercise can help control blood sugar levels, which is important if you suffer from diabetes.







Try these four exercises to kick-start your strength-training programme. Aim to do three sets of 10 for each of these exercises.

Tricep dips from a chair – for the triceps, chest and front of shoulders

Sit on an armchair and lift your body upwards using your arms, not your hips. Slowly lower your body back down again by bending your elbows. If you don’t quite have the arm strength you can use your legs to assist you slightly.

Seated dumbbell shoulder press – for shoulders

Sit on the end of a bench or use a bench/chair that supports the back. Hold dumbbells in each hand. Hold weights with palms facing out and elbows at 90 degrees, palms at shoulder level. As you exhale, push the weights overhead until arms are straight and in line with shoulders. Don’t lock elbows completely. As you inhale, return to starting position to complete one rep.

Seated dumbbell concentration curl – for biceps

Begin seated on a bench or chair. Hold a dumbbell with an underhand grip, resting that elbow on the inner side of your thigh. As you inhale, curl the dumbbell to your shoulder, keeping your upper body still. As you exhale, lower the weight back down until your arm is straight but the elbow is not locked.

Seated leg extensions

Begin seated in a chair, feet flat in front of you, palms grasping the side of the chair. Keep your left foot planted and upper body still, then extend the right leg, bending from the knee, until it is parallel with the floor. Hold for two counts and then pulse for three counts. Bend knee to lower right leg back to floor and repeat with left leg. 

Safety considerations

As with any exercise programme, check with your health care provider first. It is also worth consulting a physiotherapist for additional exercises or modifications to exercises appropriate to your own fitness requirements.

Once you have started the strength training programme – after completing a warm-up – listen to your body and stop doing any exercise that makes you uncomfortable or puts your safety at risk. You could also pair up with a friend so you can support each other.

While you may be full of enthusiasm and good intentions, do start out slowly. If it’s been awhile since you’ve exercised or lifted heavy weights always try strength exercises with no weights first so you can practice the correct movements.

For these, or any other exercise questions, speak to a member of the fitness training staff at Kelsey Kerridge Outlooks Gym. They will be able to guide you on developing an appropriate fitness programme to meet your needs.

An exercise programme to increase your upper body strength will not only tone your muscles and improve your physical capabilities, it will make you feel great too. Buck the trend and make strength training part of your weekly activity regime.