Can I Start Bodybuilding in My 50s?

Bodybuilding, weight training and strength training are sometimes used interchangeably. A well-planned weight training or resistance training program is crucial for adults 50 and over to counterbalance the natural loss of muscle that occurs with age and to avoid physical weakness. It is never too late to start weight training.

Age itself is not a factor in the ability to start a weight training program. (Image: Barry Austin/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

First, the Bad News

As you age, most physiological systems in the body begin to decline. There are incremental decreases in aerobic capacity and overall muscle performance. Aging is also associated with a decrease in muscle mass and an increase in fat mass. Older adults are at an increased risk for metabolic and cardiovascular disease. Overall weakening of the body can inhibit the ability to live independently.

Now for Some Good News

Strength training can reverse the development of certain chronic diseases associated with inactive aging. It can increase life expectancy and decrease the risk of disability. Muscular strength and endurance are among the most crucial components of health and fitness. Although age should not deter you from starting a weight-training regimen, if you haven't been active in a while or have other physical issues, check in with a health professional first.

A Fundamental Program for Functional Fitness

As a beginner, the most important goal is to correctly learn the foundational exercises. Your program should be designed in such a way as to help you avoid injury and encourage long-term adherence. A recommended range is 20 to 45 minutes of strength training two to three times a week. Modifications may be necessary to address any physical issues. Hiring a qualified fitness professional to teach you the basics may be a wise investment.

Progress is Progress, No Matter How Small

It is not necessary to focus on the amount of weight or the number of reps and sets in the beginning. Your muscles are being strengthened, but your ligaments and connective tissue are also adapting to the stress of a new workout, so go slowly and avoid doing too much too soon. Be aware of danger signs, such as dizziness, nausea or extreme fatigue. Stop your workout if you experience any of those symptoms. After about three weeks, you should be ready to start experimenting with a range of weights and repetitions, perhaps alternating heavier days with lighter ones.

To Strengthen or to Build?

Bodybuilding is actually a sport -- not a fitness endeavor. If you have been weight training for a significant length of time and are interested in developing the aesthetics of your physique for personal satisfaction or with the goal of competing, your age should not be a factor provided you are of sound body and mind. Bodybuilding competitions take place at all age levels.

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