As we age, exercise becomes more important than ever. Physical activity helps you maintain a healthy weight, and it also does wonders for your brain and mental health.
Moving your body can help you boost your bone strength too.
With that in mind, one area that seniors sometimes overlook the importance of when it comes to a healthy lifestyle is weight training.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, all people over the age of 50 should prioritize weight training. Adding strength can have a significant anti-aging effect.
The following are some of the key things to know for seniors as it pertains to weight training and weightlifting.
Bone health is often a top priority for seniors because breaks and fractures are common as you age. You lose bone density and you may also have osteoporosis.
Exercise, including weight-bearing aerobic exercise and strength training, help reduce the risk of breaks, and improve bone density.
When you weight train, you can not just develop stronger bone mass but also slow muscle loss that occurs when we age.
There was a study at Tufts University that found older women who consistently lifted weights for a year improved their balance by 14%. In a control group of study participants who didn’t lift weights, there was a 9% decline in balance in the same year.
Specifically, weight training can build bone mass in the hip and spine, so it’s beneficial if you have osteoporosis.
When you regularly weight train, it can improve your endurance in other areas. For example, if you lift weights, you’ll find that you can walk longer periods of time and it’s easier for you to do so.
Part of this is because your leg muscles are stronger, but other factors are relevant as well.
When you weight train, it can improve your range of motion and help improve your lung capacity, so you’re more efficiently using oxygen.
Weight training doesn’t burn as many calories as aerobic exercise, but what it does do is improve your metabolism.
If you’re overweight and you combine weight training and a healthy diet, you’re much more likely to lose weight than just by dieting alone.
Weight training can also help you keep your glucose under control.
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, especially as you’re aging.
With weight training, you can reduce your risk of anxiety and depression. It can boost your mood and help combat feelings of social isolation and loneliness.
Many older people in the U.S. have chronic diseases such as back pain, diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis. Strength training can help you avoid these or manage the symptoms more effectively.
How to Get Started
You may be intimidated to start weight training when you’re older, so the following are some tips to follow:
- Talk to your doctor first. You should always get the all-clear from your health care provider before you change up your fitness routine, especially if it didn’t previously include any kind of strength or weight-training.
- Try to include strength training in your routine two or three times a week at least. Have a day between each session so your muscles can recover. Muscle recovery is an important part of building strength and can also reduce the risk of injury.
- Check your Medicare Advantage or Medicare supplement plan. It may offer fitness benefits, such as a gym membership that’s either free or discounted. You can also take advantage of programs like SilverSneakers if you’re a UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage member.
- Consider working with a professional, particularly when you’re just starting out. A trainer can go over your fitness goals as well as any concerns you may have. They can create a tailored plan just for you and help you learn the proper form.
- Not all weight-training has to involve actual weights. You can begin with bodyweight exercises. Bodyweight exercises are a good way to learn form and reduce injury risk. Bodyweight exercises include lunges, squats, and pushups. Steps and bicycle crunches are also good bodyweight exercises for beginners. Two of the most critical exercises for seniors are squats because they help you get up from when you’re sitting, and pushups. If you fall doing a lot of pushups prior to can help you catch yourself and also get back up.
Finally, when you start weight-training, along with bodyweight exercises, you can also use resistance bands until you’re ready for dumbbells.