How old is too old to lift weights?
Is there breath in your lungs and blood in your veins? If so you are not too old to lift weights. Weight training is a fantastic way of promoting muscle growth and increasing bone density. Training regularly is not only good for the body but also so good for the mind. My name is Liam Phillips and I run a business called Pocket Coach. Our specialism is in person and online strength training for older adults. Read on to learn about the benefits of strength training, how to get started, how to stay safe and why you should never say “I am too old!!”.
Firstly let's start with some science. The likelihood is that if you are reading this you are over 50 years of age. As we age lots of things begin to happen. Mentally and spiritually we tend to become more calm and happy with our situation. We find peace and happiness in the smaller things in life like our families, communities and daily rituals. Physically we begin to notice some less favourable changes such as a reduction in muscle tone, stiffness, lack of mobility and lack of balance. This is mostly due to a shift in our sexual hormones such as oestrogen and testosterone. At a previous point in our lives due to these hormone levels being higher we could go about our everyday lives without taking much notice of our bodies and get away with it but now things have changed. Now we need to take action!!
Strength training otherwise known as resistance training is the performance of exercise aimed at increasing strength and endurance. It is commonly associated with lifting weights but can also be performed with your body weight. Studies have shown that you can participate in strength training deep into your 90s and still experience enormous physical changes1.
Some of the benefits include increasing bone density, increasing muscle mass and decreasing pain in the body. It is important to start at a level that is suitable for you. For instance if you have severe back pain when walking or standing it would be worth focusing on mobility exercises first before progressing to strength training. Our Moga classes, which are mobility sessions designed for older adults, utilise a lot of the nhs lower back pain exercises. Here is a sample of one of our live classes: Online Moga full body (chair). Many people with osteoporosis of the spine shy away from weight lifting, however, studies show that if performed correctly with the correct technique and load it can help slow down the osteoporosis2.
Hopefully I have at least gone some of the way to persuading you that you are not too old to lift weights. Even if you have mobility issues, are wheelchair bound, missing limbs or have an underlying illness or disease you can still benefit from strength training, there will just need to be some adaptations made for you which we can help you with.
How to get started?
Before embarking on your fitness journey it is a good idea to consult with a fitness professional so that they can assess your current situation and devise a programme that will be suitable and safe. This will save you time and money in the long run as it means that you are not wasting your time and are reducing the risk of injury. If you are looking to join a gym most gyms will offer this as part of the initial sign up service or if you are looking to do it at home then we offer an out call consultation service in Northampton or a video call if you are outside of Northampton to get you set up.
When getting started it is worth considering keeping to using very light weights and machines. The risk of injury is greatly decreased this way. As the weeks go on and your level of awareness increases you can begin to increase the weights and move on to bodyweight movements. It is also worth noting that a good warm up and cool down is vital to remaining safe. Start your session with 5-10 minutes of steady cardio such as walking and then move on to some mobility exercises. Here is a video of me demonstrating some hip mobility Hip Mobility Follow along. This is an area where a lot of people get really tight and is responsible for a lot of knee and back issues. If you require a back brace for back pain or get lower back pain when walking then it is definitely worth considering sorting out your hip tightness. At the end of the session it is a good idea to perform a cool down exercise. Some light stretching is ideal for this.
When choosing exercises to perform it is important to keep in mind your limitations. For a free beginner workout programme that works on your strength fundamentals click the link here;
The programme comes with videos and descriptions and can be performed at home! Within a given week it is important that you give yourself adequate time for recovery. When you are just beginning it is worth allowing 1 day between each session. Try to add variety to each training session and not perform the same exercises each time. This way your mind will stay stimulated and you keep shocking the body into further growth. Another important factor is something called progressive overload. Each time you go to the gym try and add a few more reps, sets or more weight. This way you are constantly being challenged. Most importantly don’t be afraid to fail. When you are pushing yourself to the limit, failure is inevitable. Learn how to fail safely by using machines or training with a coach or partner.
You are never too old!!!
Hopefully by now you have come to the realisation that you are never too old for strength training. You can start it way into your 90s and still gain loads from it. Don’t let the fear of the unknown cause you to shy away from embarking on a journey that will massively increase your quality of life, increase your resistance to accidents and falls and keep you looking and feeling better for longer.