In previous generations, people over 60 might have slowed down and focused on enjoying their retirement. But now it's known that exercise is beneficial to everyone, and during your later years, it can mean the difference between mediocre and excellent health. There's no specific exercise women over 60 should avoid, and with enough training, you can potentially do as much as someone half your age. If you have injuries or chronic conditions, though, talk to your doctor before you begin any fitness routine.
Better Health Through Lifting
Strength training offers benefits throughout your life, but it's especially helpful at staving off the effects of aging. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that regular strength training can reduce the risk of osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes and back pain. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that depression is a serious problem among senior populations, and it frequently goes untreated in this age group. Strength training can help reduce your risk of depression.
Nothing is Risk-Free
Like any new endeavor, strength training does pose some risks. If you load up on weights too quickly, you could cause muscle injuries, and women with osteoporosis are at an increased risk of experiencing broken bones. The CDC, however, emphasizes that the benefits of strength training in senior populations outweigh the risks. To avoid injuries, stick to weights that you can easily pick up and that you can lift for five to 10 reps without experiencing pain. As you gain strength, you can increase the weight by 1 to 5 pounds. Your weight-increasing schedule will depend upon how quickly you build muscle. Some people might increase weight every week or so, while others might need a month or more. Let your body be your guide.
Group Exercise Options
Group exercise offers you an opportunity to get out of your house, meet new friends and get instruction from a professional. If you're new to fitness, yoga uses your body weight to build strength, and progressively more challenging yoga classes are available as you build more fitness. You might also try a weightlifting or kettlebell class for older adults, or consider consulting with a personal trainer who can design a personalized fitness plan to meet your needs.
Going it Alone
If you want to go it alone, try starting with simple body-weight exercises such as squats, lunges and pushups. You don't need expensive equipment to lift weights. A few soup cans are just as good as smaller weights, but you can also use small dumbbells and gradually increase the weight over several weeks or months. Try doing biceps curls or arm circles while holding these weights. Weight machines such as leg presses are also a good option, and allow you to add more weight as you gain strength.
- ElderGym: Elderly Strength Training for Seniors
- NPR: Seniors Can Still Bulk Up on Muscle By Pressing Iron
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Why Strength Training?
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: Exercise Training Guidelines for the Elderly
- Oprah: The Decade-by-Decade Guide to Exercise
- National Alliance on Mental Illness: Depression in Older Persons Fact Sheet
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Strength Training in Older Adults