Lifting Weights Isn't Just For the Young

By , SparkPeople Blogger
When you think of weight lifting, especially at a gym, images of muscular men and thin, young women might come to mind. It's easy to be intimidated, or think that after a certain age the only exercise you really need is a daily walk. But that's not true. New research is showing that adults who start a regular strength training program can help minimize muscle loss and increase independence as they age.

The analysis (which complied data from previous research), was published in a recent issue of the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. Researchers found that "older adults gain an average of 2.42 pounds of lean body mass, primarily muscle, after strength training for approximately 20 weeks." Past studies have found that sedentary adults over age 50 lose about 0.4 pounds of muscle each year. A regular strength routine can counteract this muscle loss, in addition to delaying sarcopenia.

Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass and coordination that happens naturally as we age. Aerobic exercise alone isn't enough to prevent sarcopenia. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, strength and balance training is even more important than aerobic exercise, and women face a greater risk than men since they start out with less muscle. Eventually sarcopenia leads to loss of mobility and independence.

Coach Nancy recently blogged about Why Strength Training is a Necessity for Older Adults. The key isn't only to do regular strength training, but to be sure you're consistently challenging yourself. Whether that means increasing the number of repetitions, the amount of weight lifted, or the kinds of exercises, changing up your routine will help with continued progress and results.

Find out more about why Strength Training is a Must for Everyone and how you can Learn to Love Strength Training.

If you are over 50, do you strength train regularly? Why or why not?

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I don't know why I haven't started strength training. Maybe it's fear of doing it wrong? But it's time! I will not give in to "old age"! I will go there strong and hopefully wiser! God Bless! Report
I'm 53, and ST 3-4x (hour sessions) per week...heavy weights, and getting heavier (I enjoy the challenge and heft of heavy weights, ranging from 30 to 90 lbs)...sometimes I'm the only woman in the free weight area, but that's a good continually inspires me to push far, I've lost 44lbs in 11 months...I'll be doing this when I'm 99 LOL...Muscle eats fat! Cardio fits in as walking (I don't drive) and rowing... Report
Looks like the strength training boot camp is the place to start. I'll check it out! Report
I am 52 and have been ST 3x a week/aerobics 4-5x week for 30+ years. I do need to include some more stretching and flexibility movements into my routine. But love ST and feeling strong. Report
To those who have yet to strength train, & don't know where to begin, this comment is for you.
This year is the year I lose my fear & resistance to gym equipment.
I joined the YMCA a couple of weeks ago. I have had 2 long consultations with the same member of staff a week apart. the first session was fitness assessment together with finding what my goals are; the second was showing me my personal program and a run through every piece of equipment I would use.
I am loving it! Last year I learned to run, this year I run AND develop strength! Thanks spark! Report
I was doing ST consistantly, until I hurt my wrists and arms in a fall. Can't wait to get back to it, but have to heal first. Report
Very indicting! Report
Definitely something I need to do more ! Report
It's never too late to start ST. I love it! Report
I use my free weights every other day. It is helping tone up the loose skin from weight loss.
I feel that the muscle is great for helping me burn calories too! Report
Yes! I'm 52 and have been strength training since I was 47. Well, I also did it in my 30's, but somehow got sidetracked in my 40's. I love to push myself to the limits on heavy weights. I wish it was all the exercise I needed :) Report
I'm a 57 year old who also has a goal of doing chin ups unassisted. So far I can do 45 in a session, and when we do heavier weights again, I will be aiming for reducing the "assisted" weight portions to reach my personal goal. I am a strong muscular person and weights are a love of mine. Report
yes, the stronger I keep myself the less unwanted muscle movement I have. I also have power goals. The main one for the year or so is to do unassisted pull-ups (about 30). I started with 3 on a machine I'm now at 12 assisted. I know my goal will take work but they all do. So lifting will all ways be in the plan. Report
I am 50-years-old and I strength train 3 times a week using the Total Gym. Check out my Spark page. My picture is posted. That picture was taken on Feb 18th, 2011 at my son's wedding. I look great and the muscle tone is noticable!

It's important to strength train. I use my own body weight and change the angle of the bench to increase intensity. Whether you go to a gym, have a trainer, or use small weights at home, you will see a difference in time. Just stay the course and never give up on your goals.

Becky Report
I'm 67, ST Mon-Wed-Fri plus 30 of cardio, 60 of cardio Tue-Thu-Sat, relaxing 60 minute walk or stationary bike ride (depends on weather) on Sunday. I'm planning to add 30 of yoga/stretching daily when I retire this summer. Report
I'm 64, and I do cardio 6-7 times a week and strength train 6-7 days a week.
I am 60 and have consistently been strength training 3 - 4 times a week for 10 years now. I do it becos I know it's good for me (in many ways), and I like to feel the tone of my muscles :D Report
I'm a woman, 54, and I do strength train regularly. My sense of balance is excellent and I'm strong enough to do volunteer construction all day long with Habitat. It also helps with my cycling by strengthening my core and my legs. It also makes my body more dense and lets me eat more :-) Report
Yes to the age question and yes to strength training. I strength train every other day. I started with 3# dumbbells and have graduated to 5# Working my way up to 8#
I want to build lean muscles and lower the amount of fat for a healthier me. Report
I am 73 and do strength training 3 -4 times a week - with dumbbells and the strength exercises on this site. I just pick the ones I can do and have been amazed at what a difference those short times each week have made in how I feel! Report
I am 56 and I go to the gym at least twice a week. After my cardio workout, I do at least 15 different strength training machines. You can definitely see the muscles on me! Report
Thanks for the encouragement! Report
I'll be 55 this year. I recently started strength training. I had been focusing on running but realized strength training would make me a better runner. Also DH advised I do strength training when I asked him to open a jar for me one day. lol Report
I do free weights, 15 pounds, for my arms--3 reps of 15 right now-- and machines for my lower body, 50 pounds for leg curls and extensions and 70 pounds for leg presses, as well as core workouts at least twice a week, My full body workouts, equalling 2x a week, keep me motivated and my weight stable...I stopped for a while and the weight piled back it was back to the gym for me...felt great getting back into it though! Report
I am in my 50's and have been strength training since my 30's. Having been single for most of that time, it has helped me immensely in work around the house as I am strong enough to do certain things that other women have to find a man to do. And, although I am currently overweight, the amount of muscle that has amassed over the years has at least kept the fat I currently have from being so, well, flabby. Why? I suspect it has to do with the fact that fat not only collects on top of muscle, but within it as well (think of a well-marbled steak). So, the more muscle you have, the more muscle space you have for fat to settle in. Not saying that is a good thing, just that even if you slip and gain some weight, it at least doesn't look quite so bad if you have lots of muscle to distribute the fat. Report
I'm 55. I strength train a little bit. I need to get more serious about it. Report
I am almost 78. I do about 15 minutes of strength building a day. I alternate floor exercises and standing exercises (because it is an effort to get down on the floor AND up again!) I find that it helps my balance, among other things, and that is important at my age! It just makes me feel good, too! Report
I am 71 and do approximately 30 minutes of strength training daily, alternating muscle groups. I have done this for a year since joing SP and notice a great improvement in overall health. I do 30 to 60 minutes of cardio as well. Report
I think strength training is important at any age & have noticed that I have less aches & pains by strengthening the muscles supporting by body. Go slow & work up to good muscle tone. Don't over train unless your goal is to build a lot of muscle mass. Report

If you are over fifty strength training is the single most critical component of your exercise programme. Failure to do strength training has been proven to have a negative impact on the health and wellness of the older population. The benefits are research demonstrated and verified. They are not only physical they have a strong mental component since moving with ease and accomplishing everyday tasks with ease add to one's sense of self worth and ability.

I am 74 as of today and I strength train. Report
I love strength training- I just don't have the room as my better half is sort of a neat freak and I dont have the room downstairs since our daughter moved back home I still try to do what I can with dumbells. But I miss my bench and my heavy barbell. I am thinking of maybe getting a bnowflex even though I dont care for them (I would rather have a crossbow by weider good canadian boy that Iam). I try to make room for calethentics when I can also. Report
I'm 54. Thanks for the reminders, and the inspiration. I will look at the 28 day bootcamp challenge right now.
Thank you, members, for all your sharing. Report
I'm 54 and I love strength training. My favourite part is that I can open jars and change the bottle on the water cooler without having to depend on somebody else to do it for me. But I also have to do it because I've got osteoporosis from years of taking steroids for chronic illness. Report
I strengthtrain all the time. I have neighbors and family with osteoporosis and I am hoping I can escape this painful condition. I have enough other pains in my muscles, But I have managed to keep bone my density up
. I love greens and that is supposed to help. Pat in Maine. Report
Learn something new daily on SP Report
I'm 55 and in the best shape of my life. I do strength training 3 times a week along with cardio. I have several friends 10 and 20 yrs. younger than myself and they struggle to keep up during outdoor activities. Report
I am 60. I usually walk in the summer time but do nothing in the winter. However, in Oct. I joined SP with a small group of ladies from church. Since Jan 1, 2011 I have exercised and/or walked most every day. I joined the 28 day strength training bootcamp on Feb 1 and still am doing this 10 min video. After reading many articles here on SP I plan to keep up with strength training every day. Thanks Spark People Report
I am 60. I usually walk in the summer time but do nothing in the winter. However, in Oct. I joined SP with a small group of ladies from church. Since Jan 1, 2011 I have exercised and/or walked most every day. I joined the 28 day strength training bootcamp on Feb 1 and still am doing this 10 min video. After reading many articles here on SP I plan to keep up with strength training every day. Thanks Spark People Report
I am 55, I do st 2x a week. I see that some ppl do it 3-4x a week, I wonder, is that the same muscles or they alternate? I heard that muscles need time to rest for them to change. Report
Due to a stenosis in my throat I can't do cardio as I used to but am sticking to my weight work. It is helping w/my overall fitness according to my latest checkup! Report
I'm 57 and definitely agree that strength training is so important. I've been doing strength training since I started on the Spartpeople progran (Jan.5/2011) and I have noticed such a difference. Report
i do strength training of and on . do regular excerise everyday . at least one hour and a half daily if not more . must fight myself to do more . Report
To the one who doesn't know what to do or how to get started,
I suggest you try the ST workouts that are part of the 28 day boot camp challenge. They are only 7-10 minutes long. Two of the days work the upper body, two work the lower body, and two work the abs. After you have done those for a few weeks, you will be stronger and might want to check out the other videos that are right here on sparkpeople. There is a lot you can do at home; you don't have to join a gym or pay a trainer. Report
I'm 53 and have been strength training since I started on Spark People. I put my fear of the Weight Room in the trash can, got some good instruction from the Y and feel better and look better than I have in years! Once I started, I didn't want to stop! Get on the Strength Training Train! Woo-Hoo! Report
No I'm not because I just don't have a clue what to do or where to even start! Report
I've done strength training for years. It bothers me that the groceries get heavier!
also, every time I slack off, something starts hurting! I actually am unsure how to function without it, since my job is pretty sedentary. Report
I am 53 and just started going the gym 1 year ago. I do ST 3 to 4 times a week. I actually have muscles....Who Knew?! Report
I'm 60! I ST and cardio daily. My arms and legs are toned and stronger than I can't remember when. My core is getting developed as well. I am at the lowest weight I've been since I was 20! I believe I'm in better overall shape since I played football in college! To all who are waffling, get on the healthy train NOW! Report
I'm 56 and do ST daily - I include balance, stretching, and body resistance (i.e. squats, calf raises, wall pushups). I change up my routine periodically, but make sure I do this daily. I'm planning on lifting boxes of paper until I'm 90 or so! Report