It’s Never Too Late to Lift Weights!

olympic weightlifting A person with a barbell on their shoulders prepares to lift weights while another, wearing a "YouFit" t-shirt, observes and offers support in the fitness center. The background features gym equipment and a large, well-lit space, ideal for anyone looking to maximize their workout experience.

The common saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is dead wrong when it comes to fitness! Building strength is essential for healthy living at any age, and you can absolutely start lifting weights well into your later years.  Let’s explore why resistance training is so vital for older adults — and how to get started safely and effectively.

Why Is Resistance Training Important as You Age?

Interviewer: You say a lot of your older clients have pretty similar goals — what are they? What are most of your clients after, what are their goals?

YouFit Personal Trainer Nick Patma: Weight loss, in general. But really, it’s about quality of life: being strong, building and preserving that muscle — being able to move around without pain. To be, more or less, pain free.

It’s never too late for resistance training. Why is resistance training important? Especially as you get older?

Nick: As we get older, life happens: You work, start having a family; you prioritize a lot of the time. We’re always focused and keen on what’s very important to us. In a lot of cases, our health declines unless you stick with a routine.

But in most cases, there aren’t many people with that priority, because of other things in life, but it’s very important that your health remains a priority regardless of age. It gets a little bit more challenging as you get older, especially if you don’t maintain an active lifestyle.

And how does resistance training help with that? How does it help people maintain their health or their strength? Why is building strength important for the rest of the body? Not just doing cardio, but actually stressing your muscles?

Nick: With resistance training, we help preserve muscle mass. As we get older, we tend to lose some of that muscle mass. It’s a condition we call, in older people, sarcopenia. Applying resistance training helps counteract that loss of stimulating growth. Resistance training stimulates muscle growth and also preserves the muscle as well, while at the same time helping with bone density too. 

As people get older, bone density decreases to a certain degree. So resistance training can help improve that bone density and reduce the risk of fractures, even osteoporosis. And of course, overall enhancing your ability to move around and keep your balance.

Of course, one of the main sources of injury and even casualties is falling down. We want to prevent that for people, give you a chance to catch yourself and minimize that falling risk.

The mental aspect of exercise definitely helps. A lot of research nowadays says moving your body improves mood and helps reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, which is important especially given what we face in this day and age.

Stronger Muscles, Stronger You

As we get older, we naturally lose muscle mass, a process called sarcopenia.  Weightlifting counteracts this decline, helping you maintain strength for daily activities like climbing stairs, carrying groceries, and even getting up from a chair. 

Bone Boost

Resistance training puts gentle stress on your bones, making them stronger and denser. This helps prevent osteoporosis and other bone-weakening diseases.

Better Balance, Fewer Falls

Weight training improves balance and coordination, crucial for reducing the risk of falls and debilitating injuries.

Chronic Conditions

Strength training can lessen the symptoms of conditions like arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes.

Mood and Mind

Lifting weights boosts your mood, fights depression, and even improves cognitive function in older adults.

Why Say You Can’t Start Resistance Training Later in Life?

Outdated Ideas

For so long, fitness for seniors was associated mainly with gentler activities like walking or water aerobics.  Fortunately, new research and understanding show that weight training is not only possible, but hugely beneficial for older adults. 

Fear of Injury

Many people fear that starting weightlifting later in life increases the risk of strains or other injuries. While precautions are important, supervised training can ensure proper form and minimize risk.

For function and balance, it’s important to observe proper form and avoid stressing your body in unhealthy ways. But that’s not all!

It’s Safer

A qualified personal trainer or exercise professional understands the specific needs and potential limitations of older bodies. They can design safe routines and teach you correct form.

It’s Simply More Effective

Supervision maximizes the benefits of your workouts, ensuring you’re using the right weights, targeting the right muscle groups, and progressing at a healthy pace.

How Do You Ease Someone Into Resistance Training?

Start Slow! Begin with bodyweight exercises (squats, pushups, or something similar) or very light weights. Focus on mastering proper technique before increasing intensity.

Listen to Your Body. Soreness is expected, but sharp pain is a signal to stop.  Emphasize rest days for recovery.

Fun Factor, Include exercises you find enjoyable! Resistance training doesn’t just mean barbells, it can include everything, from resistance bands to the machines, for variety.

What Precautions Should Older Adults Take?

Nick: Most doctors will give approval for seniors to do resistance training, but it also depends on your current conditions, as well. It really depends! Most doctors would recommend some form of resistance training. Or getting some movement in, at least.

  • Doctor Check: Talk to your doctor first, especially with existing health conditions.
  • Gradual Progression: Don’t rush! Increasing weight or reps too quickly raises risk.
  • Warm-Ups and Cool-Downs: Essential to prepare muscles and help them recover.

Benefits of Personal Training, as a Senior Fitizen

Individualized Program: A trainer creates a plan tailored to your unique fitness level, goals, and any health concerns.

Motivation and Accountability:  A trainer’s support is key to sticking with your program.

Reduced Injury Risk:  They’ll ensure proper form and technique for greater safety.

What Can Older Adults Expect From a Personal Trainer?

  1. Initial Assessment: They’ll discuss your fitness history, health, and goals.
  2. Progressive Program: Workouts that gradually increase in difficulty to avoid plateaus.
  3. Regular Feedback: A trainer provides ongoing guidance and helps you track progress.

Interviewer: There’s a particular recent study from 2023 that supports a school of thought that you shouldn’t do resistance training as you get older. Why do you think that is? Is it just the perception of older people being more fragile? Or was there a belief that once you get to a certain age, you can’t build muscle?

Trainer Nick: I think it’s more of a fear thing, to be honest. It can be hard just trying to go into the gym, which is hard for seniors and for any beginners. And if you’re not wanting to lift weights because of the fear of injuring yourself, that doesn’t help. The media, too, can say you shouldn’t do this… 

Just talk to a doctor first, making sure you can do something at least, get that approval and see where you’re at. Then we can have you work with a trainer and see what you want to focus on, what your limitations are. And we go from there: start slow, and build up from there.

So that’s one of the reasons you should probably work with a trainer, especially if you’re an older adult who’s maybe never done routine exercise. Why would you recommend a supervised program, as opposed to just coming into the gym and trying it yourself?

Trainer Nick: The number one thing is safety, of course. Walking into the gym can be intimidating. They’ll see the equipment, look at instructions and pictures on how to do it, but making sure you do it properly and safely is the most important thing — especially for anyone with specific health conditions or limitations that we need to monitor while also making sure the exercises are done with good form and good technique; making sure it’s done correctly and safely.

Sign up for your free three-day pass today!

Lifting weights isn’t just for any one group — like only young people, or men only. Resistance training is a powerful way to boost strength, improve health and maintain your independence as you age.  It’s never too late to get started on your fitness journey! Start today with a three-day pass.

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