I never did any weight training until I was 62 years old. I realized one day that I had lost a lot of muscles. Then I started going to gym and doing weight training. With in a couple of months I started gaining muscle mass. For the last two years I am going regularly to gym and doing weight training. It now makes up the majority of my exercise routine. (Read here my old age fitness journey)
As a matter of fact, without weight training our muscles atrophy and lose mass. As we age, we lose muscle mass due to a natural process known as sarcopenia, an age-related disease. If we don’t do anything to prevent it, we are likely to lose about 15 percent of muscle mass between our 30s and 80s.
It is very important for us to take care for retaining muscle mass in our old age. Muscle mass is not only very crucial for muscle functions, but also for how we look.
It’s a fact that muscle loss occurs gradually, so you in all probability won’t notice it happening at first. But by the time you’re in your 70s, when sarcopenia is likely to pick up the pace, you possibly will begin to feel weaker and find you are unable to do things, physically, that you were doing before.
What The Experts Say About Importance Of Weight Training In Old Age
To quote the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM): “A gradual loss in muscle cross-sectional area is consistently found with advancing age; by age 50, about ten percent of muscle area is gone. After 50 years of age, the rate of loss accelerates significantly.
Muscle strength declines by approximately 15 percent per decade in the sixties and seventies and by about 30 percent thereafter. Although intrinsic muscle function is reduced with advancing age, age-related decrease in muscle mass is responsible for almost all loss of strength in the older adult.”
I am sure you won’t want to lose your strength or ability to function independently as you grow older. Listen to Willie Murphy, the 77-year-old power lifter and grandmother in the video below. You’ll hear a first-hand account of what strength training for old women or men is all about and what it will do for you as you age. What you’ll hear, awesomely, is that it can not only help you feel robust and healthier, but it can provide you the strength to do heavy stuff such as ability to shovel your own snow, carry your big grocery bags and play with your grandchildren.
I have now realized the importance of weight training in old age. If you’re middle-aged or beyond, I urge you to make this a regular part of your exercise routine. So, never ever allow this thought to creep into your mind, oh I am too old to start weight training!
Decelerate Your Muscle Loss And Increase Your Strength Three-Fold
Key is to keep exercising your muscles. If you stop working out your muscles, the chances of sarcopenia happening are heightened resulting into:
(i) Enhanced risk of falls and fractures
(ii) Loss in ability to regulate body temperature
(iii) Sluggish metabolism
(iv) Impaired ability to perform daily tasks
On the other hand, what you achieve by performing weight training – even if you’re already “older?” As the American College of Sports Medicine reveals:
“Given an adequate training stimulus, older adults can make significant gains in strength. A two- to three-fold increase in strength can be accomplished in three to four months in fibers recruited during training in older adults. With more prolonged resistance training, even a modest increase in muscle size is possible.
…With increasing muscle strength come increased levels of spontaneous activity in both healthy, independent older adults and very old and frail men and women. Strength training, in addition to its possible effects on insulin action, bone density, energy metabolism, and functional status, is also an important way to increase levels of physical activity in the older adult.”
So, by helping you conserve your muscle mass and strength, strength training can, actually, bestow you with a very active and healthy living.
Benefits Of Weight Training for Seniors
Weight training is important all through your life, but in many ways it becomes even more crucial as you age. So much so, it’s not too late even if you’re in your 90s. One study observed that a group of nursing home residents with an average age of 90 increased their strength between 167 and 180 percent after just 8 weeks of weight training. Here are some more observed benefits of strength training for seniors:
(i) Enhanced Walking Ability: After 12 weeks of weight training, seniors aged 65 and over enhanced both their leg strength and endurance. Moreover they were able to walk nearly 40 percent more without resting.
(ii) Enhanced Ability To Perform Everyday Tasks: After 16 weeks of “total body” weight training, women aged 60 to 77 years improved their strength considerably. They had remarkable gains in walking velocity and the capacity to carry through everyday tasks like rising from a chair or carrying a bag of groceries.
(iii) Reduced Risk Of Falls: Women between the ages of 75 and 85, all of who had decreased bone mass or full-blown osteoporosis, were able to cut back their fall risk with weight training and agility activities.
Bonus Benefits That The Older Folks Get From Weight Training
(i) Relief From Joint Pains: Weight training make stronger the muscles, tendons and ligaments surrounding the joints that takes stress off the joint and helps ease pain. It can also help increase your range of motion.
(ii) Make Blood Sugar Control Better: Weight training assists in controlling blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. It can also lower the type 2 diabetes risk. Strength training for at least 3 hours per week cut back diabetes risk by 34 percent as compared to being sedentary.
(iii) Bonus Benefits: Weight training prevents brittle bone formation, and can assist in reversing the damage already done. For instance, a walking lunge exercise is a good technique to gain bone density in your hips, even without any additional weights. Strength training also improves your body’s production of growth factors that promote cellular growth, proliferation, and differentiation. Some of these growth factors also responsible for the growth, differentiation, and endurance of neurons that help explain why exercising our muscles also benefits our brain and helps prevent dementia.
Best Training Technique In Old Age – Super-Slow Weight Training
By slowing down your workout movements, you can turn your weight-training session into high-intensity exercise. The super-slow movements make your muscle, at the microscopic level, to recruit the maximum number of cross-bridges between the protein filaments that produce movement in the muscle.
This is safe and sound way to include high-intensity exercise into your training routine if you’re older and have trouble in getting around. You only require about 15 minutes of super-slow strength training once per week to attain the same human growth hormone (HGH) production as you would from 20 minutes of high fitness sprints, which is why fitness experts are such ardent believers of this approach.
The fact that super-slow resistance training infuses your body with a tremendous increase in human growth hormone (HGH), also known as the “fitness hormone,” is another reason, which makes it so helpful for the older folks.
As you reach your 30s and beyond, you get into what’s called “somatopause,” when your levels of HGH start to fall off quite alarmingly. This is the part, which steers your aging process. As per Dr. McGuff, there’s also a strong correlation between somatopause and age-related sarcopenia. HGH is required to maintain your fast-twitch muscle fibers that deliver a lot of power. It’s also required to stimulate those muscles.
To quote Dr. McGuff: “What seems to be evident is that a high-intensity exercise stimulus is what triggers the body to make an adaptive response to hold on to muscle. We have to remember that muscle is a very metabolically expensive tissue… If you become sedentary and send your body a signal that this tissue is not being used, then that tissue is metabolically expensive. The adaptation is to deconstruct that tissue…”
Super Slow Strength / Weight Training From Middle Age Onwards
Although the super-slow weight training can benefit people of all ages, but this is certainly a technique that must be considered by those who are middle-aged or older. I suggest that the older folks should incorporate super-slow (high intensity) workout set of 4-5 basic compound exercises for their training routine. Compound exercises are movements that involve the coordination of several muscle groups—for example, squats, chest presses and compound rows.
Here Are Best Tips For A Super-Slow (High Intensity) Workout Set
(i) Start by lifting the weight as slowly and gradually as you can. You can do it with a four-second positive (lifting) and a four-second negative (bringing down) – that is a slow count to four while lifting the weight up, and another slow count to four when lowering the weight. When lifting up, stop about a little before your limb is fully straightened; and then smoothly reverse direction. Slowly lower the weight back down to the slow count of four. This is one rep.
(ii) Perform the repetitions until exhaustion. Use the amount of weight with which you are able to perform just 8 to 10 reps. Once you reach exhaustion, don’t try to attempt one more with a jerk.
(iii) Immediately take up the next exercise for the next intended muscle group, and repeat the first two steps.
I Did It and So Can You!
So what if you’ve never exercised before or have been off track for quite some long time. It will do a lot of good to you even if you begin exercising now. Remember, you are never too old to begin weight training. Take my case, I didn’t start working out until I was 62 and now, at the age of 64, I have gained remarkable gains in strength, range of motion, balance, bone density and mental clarity. After a bit of apprehension at first, I now, love my early morning workouts and, I am confident, you can also be benefitted in the same way, no matter what your age.
If you’re just starting out, the best way I would recommend is talk to a personal fitness trainer who can guide you about proper form and technique. He or she can also help you chalk out a plan considering your fitness goals. Moreover he or she will suggest you a plan, which is safe and sound based on your specific medical conditions.
If you are over 60, read here for best tips to do weight training.
Old Age Weight / Strength Training Tips
Just keep in mind that whereas no doubt you need to use caution, but you should try working out at a level that is challenging to your body. Don’t make the mistake of working out with not enough intensity, otherwise this will not provide you all the benefits.
It’s also necessary that before you begin the journey you adjust your mindset as well. You need to get rid of any negative beliefs that you may have about work out or your body’s capability to get stronger at an older age. Once you’re open, mentally, to becoming fit and strong, your body will follow suit. Make sure to begin slowly and gradually increase your intensity while listening to your body. And make sure to allow your body enough time for recovery, and the proper nourishment as well to help gain your muscles.
For older women or men, I recommend a high-quality whey protein. Consuming a high-quality whey protein shake after your workout may help to maximize muscle protein synthesis. Here are some of the best post work nutrition tips.
Finally, in addition to strength training, you need to conclude your work out program with other beneficial exercises such as balance training, core work and flexibility training.
Add on all the above techniques to your regular everyday physical activities – aim for 7,000 to 10,000 steps a day – and you’ll soon find your fitness level shooting up.
About Author: Renu Bakshi, AKA Fitness Buffhq, is ISSA Certified Personal Fitness Trainer & Nutrition Health Coach. He shares his experience and knowledge about nutrition and effective workouts to get you in the best shape of your life, no matter how old you may be. The author says: “For me age is just a number!”