Weight training is a pastime more often associated with people in their teens and 20s, and many older people may opt for lighter, lower-impact activities such as walking and swimming for their exercise choices. However, weight training can provide many benefits for people over 50, although there are certain recommendations you should follow for weight training to be effective and safe. You should also consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.
Consequences of Aging
As you age, a certain amount of degeneration will occur in many structures within the body. Two of the most common symptoms associated with aging are muscles loss and bone loss. While these might sound harmless, and you may see them as an inevitable part of getting older, they can actually lead to further conditions, such as osteoporosis, and cause poor posture, injuries, and muscle and joint pain.
Weight training can help to increase bone density and muscle strength in people of any age, but in over-50s it is particularly important, as it reduces the effects of aging. Weight training also increases the body's store of proteins and metabolites, which help to stabilize the immune system, fitness author Will Brink explains on his website. Elderly people who weight-train have higher numbers of proteins and metabolites, which can help to improve recovery after major traumas, such as surgery. Including certain exercises for the upper back, core and hips can also improve posture, which tends to deteriorate as you get older.
While the traditional way of thinking was that people over 50 couldn't build muscle, and that it was better for over-50s to do a higher number of repetitions with a light weight, this is not accurate, the ShapeFit website reports. Your aim should be to build a good blend of strength, muscle and endurance, so include some strength work in the one-to-six-repetition range, some hypertrophy (muscle-building) work in the seven-to-12-rep range, and some endurance work, performing more than 12 repetitions per set. Aim to weight-train two to three times per week, on non-consecutive days, and include an exercise for the legs, back, chest and core in each session.
When starting a weight-training regimen, you might wish to recruit a personal trainer or gym instructor to help you learn exercise techniques. Remember to always work within your limitations, and don't use weights which are too heavy for you, or cause you to lift with poor form. But don't be afraid to increase the weight if it's too easy, either. Get regular checkups from your doctor, and ensure you eat a healthy diet to get the most out of your training.