Why seniors should lift weights

If you're over 65, cardiovascular activity isn’t the only form of exercise that is beneficial. You may want to add pumping iron to your list of priorities.

After 50, muscle tone declines by 15 percent per decade on average leaving you more susceptible to poor balance and falls, one of the main causes of hospitalization for seniors. 

Scientific evidence reveals the myriad of short and long-term benefits for both your body and your minf to lifting weights for older adults.

The Body:

Weight training can develop stronger bone mass and slow the process of age-related muscle loss, which can drastically reduce your chance of fractures from falls. This is especially beneficial for women prone to osteoporosis.

What’s more, resistance training also improves endurance. Seniors who lift weights can typically walk for longer periods of time with more ease. The improvements are two-fold — not only do the leg muscles become stronger and have improved range of motion to extend the use of the legs with age, but resistance training also increases lung capacity and makes them more efficient in their use of oxygen.

For those who suffer from arthritis and joint pain, weight lifting can help with pain management as it strengthens the joints, ligaments and tendons and improves range of motion. 

Finally, if weight management is a concern, weight training boosts the metabolism to encourage weight loss.

The Mind:

Studies also show that many seniors who weight train regularly also experience more restful sleep, a happier disposition and more self-confidence. Active seniors not only live longer, they can also extend their memory and prevent degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

How to:

Resistance training includes anything from lifting dumbbells, using resistance bands and also body weight exercises.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends lifting lighter weight at moderate intensity twice a week for anyone 50 and older. Focus on upper and lower body and add more repetitions as the muscles get stronger. When paired with core strengthening exercises, balance and stability also improve to prevent falls, one of the main causes of hospitalization for seniors. 

By adding functional training, movements that mimic everyday tasks, day-to-day activities like walking, carrying groceries or standing up and sitting down become easier and less likely to cause injury. 

Make sure to consult a personal trainer to ensure you’re engaging in exercises that match your fitness level and physical capabilities and always check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program. 

Brian Maher is the owner of Philly Personal Training, a Philadelphia-based studio offering 1-on-1 personal training, physical therapy, and nutrition counseling. Philly Personal Training is the only personal training studio or gym in Philadelphia that requires its personal trainers to possess a college degree in an exercise-related field, as opposed to a basic certification.


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