The Importance of Strength Training after 50

By, Karen B. Totino, Personal Trainer

Embrace the Weights after 55

IF YOU AREN’T DOING IT, WHY YOU SHOULD

Strength Training post image

Think strength training is just for young people? Does the idea of using weights intimidate you? You’re not alone. But as we age, it’s even more importance that we embrace the weights!

SARCOPENIA, it’s the technical medical term that describes how our muscles shrink or atrophy as we age. You might think, so what? I’m not an elite athlete or play competitive sports and having a buff body isn’t super high on the priority list. Did you know that it is one of the most important causes of functional decline and loss of independence in older adults? Muscle loss not only results in a decrease of strength and power but also affects our balance and coordination. Think of how well you can catch yourself when slipping on ice or stumbling on a curb. If you do hit the ground, how dense are your bones? More walking, swimming and/or running will not reverse this process of aging.

However, strength training 2-3 days per week can have a dramatic effect on the quality of your life now and how well you function in the future. It has also been shown to improve sleep quality and reduce depression. The benefits of strength training include reversing the aging process by building muscle, strengthening bones, reducing osteoporosis, reducing or eliminating joint pain, improved coordination and balance, better sleep and mood. All of the things you enjoy doing you will be able to do better and longer like lifting your grandchildren, carrying groceries, golfing, tennis, gardening, or getting up off the floor with ease, plus so much more! A study published in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, found that people with weaker muscle strength are 50% more likely to die earlier than their stronger counterparts.

Some of the biggest reasons people don’t start strength training after 50, besides not being aware of the tremendous benefits, are:

  • they are afraid of getting hurt, 
  • have old or current injuries/limited range of motion or 
  • think they need a certain level of fitness to get started. 

Unfortunately, the stereotype of a buff twenty something with a barbell loaded with weight comes to mind, however, strength training may start with using only your body weight. Conversely, curling 3-5 pound weights won’t give you much benefit either. Working with a personal trainer can be very beneficial if you are new to strength training. He or she will help to build a foundation of good form and technique, in other words teach you how to move well both inside and outside the gym. A good trainer will always have your safety as their primary goal and can work around injuries and limits in movement. Another option is small group training, which also has the added benefit of socialization and being part of a community that is positive, supportive and uplifting. 

It can be tempting to put off investing in our health until we have a crisis or health scare.  The best advice I can give you is to not wait! Strength training can really improve the quality of your life now and in the future for a small amount of your time.