If you are in your 60s and you hear the term ‘weight training’ your mind may transport you to an image of young Arnold Schwarzenegger type characters lifting heavy weights in a sweaty gym. Well, let us dispel that myth as weight training doesn’t have to be just about getting bigger muscles. As you reach your 60s and beyond, your existing muscle mass declines at a steady rate. However, weight training can slow, and even reverse, this process. Training with weights can replenish and support existing muscle mass, build muscle as well as improve strength and develop joint flexibility.
Older adults are not going to engage in the same workouts or weight training regimes as their younger counterparts. I am most certainly not saying that at this age you cannot achieve what you want to achieve in regards to your health and wellbeing. But what I am saying is that your weight training regime needs to be goal specific, tailored to your needs and appropriate to your immediate environment.
Throughout your 60s your body becomes more vulnerable to injury, especially around the joints and it is common to take a longer time to recover from certain movements and exercises. Again this is further reason to develop a specific plan for building your own strength and wellbeing. Age specific goals through weight training should utilise strength based exercises that reduce the risk of disease, such as heart disease. In which case, an over 60s workout should quite simply be enjoyable, get the heart pumping faster and the blood flowing quicker around the body. Building muscle, strengthening ligaments and joints can certainly be achieved whilst minimising the risk of serious injury in the process.
Therefore the recommendation for over 60s is to work out for at least 30 minutes using moderate but varied resistance training at least 3 days a week. It is found throughout research that older adults who partake in strength and weight training make significant improvements in strength and function, whilst reducing existing pain (1). Strength training should be a main focus, as it prevents bone and muscle loss, whilst flexibility and functional movements are also crucial.
Mimicking everyday activities and movements is a crucial aspect to any older adult exercise regime. Weight training programmes for people in their 60s must include a wide range of movements and exercises that are specific to everyday actions. These include movements such as reaching, stretching, getting up from a chair, walking upstairs, picking up objects, pushing, pulling and so forth.
Weight training is not just about getting bigger muscles. As you age and your body loses strength and muscle mass – weight training can replace this. A weight training regime can in turn boost confidence when carrying out movements on a daily basis; can improve flexibility and suppleness as well as developing that all important self-worth.
Lifting weights isn’t just for athletes or bodybuilders; it’s for all of us, especially older adults. It’s by far one of the most important things you can do for your body. Start with bodyweight exercises to reduce the risk of injury when starting out. Learning correct form to reduce the risk of injury is key to a successful workout plan. Being able to lift your own bodyweight can improve your strength dramatically. Squats, lunges, push-ups, and step-ups are specific exercises that can help improve everyday life. These movements can be classed as ‘starter’ exercises that target the body’s largest muscle groups by using functional everyday movements, which translate to improved performance in daily tasks, such as playing with your grandchildren.
When you think of the gym or exercise in general most people think of running on a treadmill or pounding the pavements like something out of a ‘Rocky’ film. This can put people of all ages off, let alone people in their 60s. Again, let’s dispel that myth. A new study suggests combining weight training with a low-calorie diet preserves much needed lean muscle mass that can be lost through aerobic cardio workouts (2). Therefore you don’t need to imagine yourself running the streets any longer; a specific weight and strength training regime can be much more efficient and effective to the health and wellbeing of older adults.
Strength training becomes even more important as we get older. As we age, our metabolisms tend to slow down. Numerous studies show that older men and women who train for strength improve not only their muscular strength, but with it their ability to live more independent, fuller lives. Although physical activity of any type will improve strength, more intense activities, and particularly weight training, are most beneficial. When older men and women incorporate weight and strength-training into their exercise routines significant gains in strength can be achieved, slowing the general decline in wellness associated with age. Weight training is effective in combatting insulin sensitivity for people with diabetes. The more muscle you have, the better your body responds to the insulin you take or make by lowering your blood sugar. In addition, strength training not only strengthens bone and increases muscle mass but the combination of these factors decreases the incidence of falls and thus osteoporotic fractures. Muscles tend to weaken with age, and this decline can eventually take away older adult’s active, independent lifestyles. However, the good news is that this can be reversed and even developed with little but often weight training exercises. At Core Results we pride ourselves on individual and tailored programmes for our clients. When applied appropriately via Core Results fitness professionals, weight training regimes are safe, effective, and guess what, you may even enjoy it!