Yes, some seniors can be frail and have low energy reserves but most of us will respond well to moderate sessions of weight training. Numerous studies have shown that strength training for seniors and other exercises for seniors done regularly not only builds up bone and muscle but counteracts the weakness and frailty that usually comes with aging.
Further, Dr. Gregg's group found that women who were very active and engaged in activities such as tennis or aerobic dance had the greatest (36%) reduction in hip fractures. Moreover, women who did lower-intensity activities such as walking, gardening, or social dancing for at least an hour a week also had significant reduction of risk for hip fractures.
Remember, you are never too old to start exercising, and strength training in particular only becomes more important with age. My mom is an excellent example of this. She didn't take up strength training until the age of 74! Now, several years later, she's a testament to the fact that you can gain significant improvements in strength, range of motion, balance, bone density, and mental clarity, even if you get a late start.
For resistance exercise: You don't need to pump iron in a gym to do resistance exercise. Of course, if you want to go to the gym, I wouldn't discourage you. But if you prefer to do it at home, you can. I recommend exercise tubing if you're looking for a simple but effective way to do resistance exercise at home. Exercise tubing is inexpensive and versatile (you can do lots of very different exercises with them) and they are a great way to get started with resistance exercise. You can start with a set of four for about $20. They come in colors to denote the tension. If you order them, make sure to order the strap that allows you to attach the tube to a door, and if you want to work your legs, ask for leg straps. Here are some vendors that sell them:
When I was younger, I never worried about my health or quality of life. As I've gotten older, I've realized how important that is from my own experience and from working with older personal training clients. My senior clients, some of whom are in better shape than I am, have taught me about the importance of being healthy and taking care of our bodies for the future. Even more important, they've taught me that it's never too late to start exercising.
In two different studies—one of men 50-70 years of age who lifted weights three times a week for 16 weeks, and the other of women 40-70 years of age who lifted twice a week for one year, bone density in the leg and back was shown to increase. There is also some evidence that walking can increase bone density in the hips and lower back, but the recommendation for frequency and intensity of the walking is not clear. What is clear is that exercise does help build or preserve bone density, and so it is recommended that we stay active for the sake of our bones and overall health.
For aerobic exercise: Walking, dancing (when's the last time you took a ballroom-dancing class?), biking, and swimming are all good options. You can also try exercise videos. Collage Video is a good resource. They have lots of videos for individuals of all ages (search their site for "seniors"). Also check out your local senior center, rec center, Y, or local fitness center for classes that are appropriate for you. Many centers offer exercise classes for seniors. They're out there if you look.
Research has found that bone mass can be increased in older women by physical activity. To determine whether physical activity can actually reduce the risk for broken hips, a large multicenter study was done. Nearly 10,000 women over 65 years of age were evaluated. The results of this important prospective (forward looking) study appeared in the July 15,1998 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.