If you’re intimidated by the idea of lifting weights, you’re not alone. Many seniors wonder if it’s safe or even beneficial to their health. Yes – in most cases – strength training is safe for seniors and it offers more benefits than you think.
Is it Safe for Seniors to Lift Weights?
Many seniors worry that strength training might be dangerous or unsafe, but for the most part, weight training is safe and beneficial for all adults. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends weight training for everyone over the age of 50.
Of course, you should check with your doctor before starting any exercise routine.
You don’t need to lift heavy weights to reap the benefits of strength training, but if you can, heavier weight (when lifted safely) can provide more benefits.
If this is your first experience with weight training, you might consider using the machines at the gym. These machines isolate the muscle while helping prevent injury and ensuring proper form.
The Benefits of Strength Training for Seniors
There are many advantages to strength training for seniors, including:
Rebuilds Muscle and Prevents Muscle Loss
Studies have shown that even brief periods of resistance exercise (20-40 minutes per workout session, two to three times a week) can help rebuild muscle in people aged 50-90. Many of these studies have resulted in gains of 3-4 pounds of muscle after just a few months of regular training.
Jumpstarts Your Metabolism
Any kind of exercise will boost your metabolism, but strength training gives you a slightly bigger boost.
Strength training helps rebuild muscle. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn while at rest.
Lifting weights also increases your energy use during the workout session as well as the recovery and rebuilding period. In fact, the post-workout effects can last up to three days. Working out can also help you get a good night of sleep.
Helps You Maintain a Healthy Weight
Strength training, especially when combined with cardiovascular exercise, can help you maintain a healthy weight for the rest of your life.
Resistance training will also help boost fat loss. Unfortunately, we all gain more fat as we age, even if our eating habits are the same.
Improved Bone Density
Muscle loss goes hand-in-hand with bone loss. If we don’t use our muscles, we lose them – and our bones suffer as a result.
Here’s the good news: Weight training improves both your muscle mass and your bone mass. Studies have shown that several months of regular resistance training produces a substantial increase in bone mineral density.
Experts say weight training is one of the most effective ways to avoid injury and maintain a strong body.
Ease of Daily Tasks
Ultimately all of the benefits listed above help make your life easier. Maintaining strength and muscle mass will make everyday tasks easier. It will also help prevent injuries, which disrupt your everyday life and potentially take away your independence.
If you want to maintain mobility well into old age, consider starting a weight lifting routine. It can greatly reduce your chances of having to use a walker too.
Arthritis Pain Relief
Strengthening the muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments in the body will help relieve arthritis pain while greatly improving your range of motion.
If you’re already suffering from arthritis, you’ll want to start off with lower weight to avoid overdoing it and causing yourself more pain.
Keep Diabetes at Bay
Strength training can help diabetes at bay by keeping glucose in check. If you already have Type 2 diabetes, weight training can help keep it under control (with the help and guidance of your doctor). One study found that 16 weeks of strength training greatly improved glucose control in people with diabetes.
Participants also lost fat, increased muscle strength and gained self-confidence.
In addition to all of these great benefits, weight training can also help combat depression while improving sleep.
How to Get Started with Weight Training
Many seniors are unsure of how to get started with a weight training routine. Working with a trainer is a great place to start, but you can find numerous workouts online for free.
- Start off with low weight to ease your way into weight training.
- Spend at least ten minutes warming up before the workout and ten minutes cooling down after the workout.
- Maintain proper posture throughout the exercise.
- All movements should be deliberate and slow to moderate in pace.
- Never grip the weights too tightly.
It’s important to breathe properly when lifting. Never hold your breath when lifting weights, or you may pass out. Exhale on the exertion portion of the exercise.
Muscle soreness is expected when lifting weights, but if you experience pain in your joints, stop exercising.
Tips for Building a Routine
Building a weight training routine doesn’t have to be complicated. The goal is to work:
- The upper body
- The core and back
- The lower body
Most experts recommend performing two to three exercises from each group, three times a week.
Here’s an example of a simple routine:
- Upper body: bicep curls, shoulder raises, dumbbell flyes.
- Core and back: upright rows, shoulder press.
- Lower body: leg extensions, leg curls, squats (against the wall)
As always, make sure that you consult with your doctor when creating a strength training routine. Your doctor will help you understand if strength training is right and safe for you.
Allie has worked in care facilities for the last 15 years providing mobility and health care to seniors of all skill levels. She is passionate about senior advocacy and is and loves to spend her free time in the outdoors.