Most people over 50 don’t lift weights - they absolutely should in one form or another. The reason for not doing so is often based around fear. Fear of getting injured, fear of not knowing how and fear of going to a gym. Most people are also unaware of the huge benefits weight training can have on your health and quality of life.
Weight training has a substantial impact on your mental and physical health. A recent review of the literature and meta-analysis found resistance training (weight training) an effective means to improve an array of quality of life measures listed below in older adults (1).
- Improve social life
- Improved emotional function (happiness/stress resistance)
- Improved general mental health
- Improved vitality
- Improved clarity of thought
- Decrease in depression
- Decrease in feelings of anxiety
- Increased strength and muscle size
- Improved tendon strength
- Improved joint health and mobility
- Improved blood pressure values
- Improvement in general health ratings
- Improved daily physical role functioning
- Decrease general bodily pain
- Decreased joint pain (improved osteoarthritis pain)
- Prevention of osteoporosis and fragility
- Improved sleep
- Improved daily energy
- Decreased Fat mass
- Improved cholesterol numbers
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Decrease metabolic syndrome risk factors
- Decrease burden of disease (decrease all-cause mortality/improved outcomes)
- Improved balance
- Decrease in falls
- Improved lower back pain and stiffness
All this from simply lifting weights a few times per week!
Addressing the fears
Many people fear lifting weights because they already have injuries or are worried about getting injured. This is understandable. However, with the correct guidance and technique lifting weights is very safe, even for those who feel they have a “weak” back or “dodgy” knee. With professional advice you will find you have a strong back and strong knee that can do more than you can imagine.
Seeking advice and going to a gym can be intimidating for some. I want to give you confidence to take the first step by talking to a professional about starting a strength training program and either joining a gym or setting up your own. I suggest joining a gym as it can be difficult to set up all the equipment at home. A gym will have everything you need. I also find many people with home gym’s never use them. It’s so easy to say “I’ll do it later” because it's right there. Whereas going to a gym you have to allocate a time to go and will be more committed. A gym has the added bonus of being a social environment which makes it more enjoyable. That being said if you have a great set up at home and it works for you then go for it!
What is involved in evidence based weight training?
It may seem complicated and daunting but I can tell you it’s much easier and simpler than you think. I tell my clients to imagine the basic human movements. Standing up, picking things up off the ground, pulling something towards or pushing something away from your body, lifting something over your head and rotating from the hips and shoulders. In strength training you perform these essential movements with weights using correct form for repetitions that can range from 1 to 12+, 2-4 sets with a rest period in between depending on your specific goals and needs. You only need to perform these exercises 2 or more times per week to see significant results. Each session should only take around 30-45minutes to complete.
Where to begin
One of your best option is to find an Exercise Physiologist or Exercise Sports Scientist who has a solid history working with various clients and injures. One who is continually up skilling and educating themselves so they can be better for their clients. These University educated specialists have to pass many practical examinations and engage in many hours of work placements before they can get their qualifications, ensuring a solid base of knowledge is obtained. The best trainers both train AND educate so you're able to train yourself!
If you don’t have any medical or chronic musculoskeletal issues a personal trainer will be able to help. I will stress though it is VERY easy to get a personal training certificate in a few weeks and many trainers have poor knowledge especially when it comes training people with ongoing health issues. Just like every profession there are the good and the bad. Some personal trainers are downright terrible and have little knowledge of correct training and others are fantastic, always working to increase their knowledge base. Do some research and ask questions to find out if they’re right for you. Finding the right trainer will fast track your results and decrease the likelihood of any injuries.
I want to encourage you to not be fearful, chat with an expert and get a program together that suits your lifestyle and start training. I promise, once you have done a few sessions you will feel more confident, feel stronger and all the benefits will start to show improving your quality of life.
If you have any questions feel free contact me via the contact page.
- Hart, P., & Buck, D. (2019). The effect of resistance training on health-related quality of life in older adults: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Health Promotion Perspectives, 9(1), 1-12. doi: 10.15171/hpp.2019.01