Hey, Wellness Warriors! As we grow older, an active life is more important than ever. Aging does not have to equal weakness, so there is no reason to accept that poor health and weakness are inevitable parts of aging. Exercise—and even just regular movement—keeps us healthier as we age.
I am often asked what I do for workouts. I lift weights. Weightlifting is my go-to, and I try to do it three days/week.
Strength and resistance training is crucial as we age. WHY? It helps maintain muscle tissue. Muscle mass is closely tied to our metabolism. If your muscles decrease by 8-10%, your metabolism also decreases by 8-10%. Increased strength also allows us to lift heavier objects, which translates into a better life outside of the gym.
When you’re over 50, strength training is less about developing those abs of steel and more about maintaining a strong, healthy body that’s less prone to injury and illness. Let’s take a look at a few of the great benefits of strength and resistance training specifically for us seniors.
The Benefits of Strength Training for Seniors
We’ve all heard the expression “use it or lose it,” and that’s especially true when it comes to our strength, flexibility, and mobility. Resistance training can actually prevent muscle loss and increase bone density aswe age. So there really isn’t any need to accept the idea that weakness and poor health are just a part of aging.
Here are five ways you can reap the benefits of strength training:
- Prevents muscle loss – As mentioned above, strength training helps prevent muscle loss. It also increases muscle mass. No, you won’t be bulky, but you will have the strength to do the things you need to do to stay independent and live the active life you want to live.
- Builds bone density – Again, as mentioned above, strength training helps to build bone density. No one wants to fall and break a bone, and recovering from a break in your 60s+ is very different than when you fell off your bike and broke your arm when you were 7.
- Decreases body fat – Too much body fat isn’t ideal for you at any age, but especially not as we age. Strength training will help you maintain a healthy weight. And let’s face it, that’s important when it comes to preventing many of the diseases that seem to come with aging.
- Lowers the risk of chronic disease – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends strength training for most older adults to help lessen the symptoms of certain chronic conditions including arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, obesity, back pain, depression.
- Safety – Strength is also important for safety and independence as we get older. Think of being able to push yourself up from a seated position, pull yourself up with your upper body if you’ve fallen, or (with progressing age) walk unassisted.
So how do you get started with a strength or resistance training program? Well, the first place to start is with your physician. Be sure to check with him or her to discuss what you want to do and anything you need to be careful of before starting.
I think one of the best pieces of news about strength training is that it doesn’t need to involve strenuous workouts or trips to the gym. The most simple, beneficial exercises can be done right in your own home. In fact, if you’re just getting started with strength training, here’s a good 20-minute exercise plan you can do right in your home. I also enjoy using resistance bands, and they can be used in your home, on the walking trail, and especially when you travel.
However, going to a gym or fitness center can be helpful. Most facilities offer special classes for seniors, along with a knowledgeable staff that can guide you through proper exercise techniques.
So when should you start? Well, there’s no time like the present! Muscles burn three times the number of calories that fat burns! The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you will burn!
Now, if you think you are going to become big and bulky if you age, think again. We are simply not designed to do so naturally. Strive for lean, toned muscles, an increase in strength and metabolism, and reduced fat!
Wellness Warriors, strength training will help you get stronger and stay stronger, which will help you remain independent and able to do the things you really love to do. Don’t accept weakness and poor health as an inevitable part of aging! We can change the way we age—and it all starts NOW!
Until next time, Live Well, Live Long!