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Safe Weightlifting for Seniors

Strength training is an excellent way to stay in shape in our later years.

As we age, our bodies naturally lose muscle mass and strength, making it more difficult to perform daily activities. Regular weightlifting for seniors helps counteract this natural decline by building and maintaining muscle mass and strength, in addition to numerous other physical and mental health benefits.

Let’s explore the many benefits of strength training for older adults.

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Can Seniors Lift Weights?

Yes, senior citizens can lift weights and benefit greatly from strength training. In fact, weight lifting after 50 years old is an excellent way to stay in shape, as well as prevent common issues that occur from ageing. Professional athletes and lifelong fitness enthusiasts work out well past that age, so why shouldn’t you?

That said, if you’re only starting to exercise or have been inactive for a period of time, it’s important to start from the beginning.

First and foremost, this means doing a routine checkup at the doctor’s office and getting the “A-OK” for exercising. After that, it’s important to get the right education and support before you attempt to exercise, especially if you plan on doing it on your own.

The internet is full of resources on proper exercising, hence why you’re reading this. However, nothing beats first-hand experience.

If you’re new to exercising or have physical or mental conditions that can make it unsafe to do it alone, getting help is the correct approach. This means, for example, consulting and hiring a personal trainer, attending a public gym with staff at the ready to assist you, or joining group exercises where you’ll always be under supervision and have a helping hand.

Benefits Of Weightlifting For Seniors

Stimulating Muscle Growth

As we grow older, we tend to lose muscle mass. On top of that, our ability to gain and maintain muscles also goes down.

There are several reasons for this. Firstly, we naturally produce fewer hormones essential for muscle mass, such as testosterone and growth hormone. Second, our metabolic system starts slowing down and our bodies become less efficient at absorbing and utilising nutrients essential for muscle growth, such as proteins.

However, fitness experts and medical professionals tend to agree, the highest causes of muscle deterioration are simply lifestyle changes that occur with age.

In fact, loss of muscle mass is highly attributed to physical inactivity, even in the younger population.

These factors already contribute to lower food intake, which leads to less expendable energy.

Additionally, chronic illnesses and pain that occur from ageing may naturally force us to be less physically active than we used to be.

Strength training for older adults is the best way to promote muscle growth and prevent existing muscles from deteriorating. For this reason, it’s highly recommended to stay physically active as you age, as much as your physical limitations allow.

Increasing Bone Density

One of the main reasons our bodies become more “fragile” with age is a decrease in bone density. Losing bone density increases the risk of fractures, particularly in the hips, wrists, and spine. Over time, this can grow into problems such as chronic pain, decreased mobility, and lower quality of life. Similarly to muscle deterioration, loss of bone density can heavily be attributed to hormonal changes, poor nutrition, and lifestyle changes such as inactivity.

Research indicates that weight-bearing exercise can enhance bone density and promote optimal bone health.

Bone health is especially important for women, as they’re more susceptible to Osteoporosis, a disease in which more bone is broken down than replaced. Men can also experience Osteoporosis, although it’s less common. This condition is especially risky as it can go completely unnoticed until a fracture happens and requires medical intervention.

Improving Cognitive Health

Weightlifting has been shown to increase the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF), which are proteins that support the growth and survival of neurons in the brain.

This way, old people lifting weights protect themselves from age-related cognitive decline resulting from brain deterioration.

On top of that, exercise is known to have a positive impact on mental health. Studies have shown that resistance training such as weight lifting exercises improves our mood and lower depression.

Potential Risks Of Weightlifting For Seniors

Lifting weights for seniors as a form of exercise naturally carries potential risks. Proneness to injury can be quite common, particularly if proper form and technique are not used.

The resistance created by the weights puts stress on the body, particularly the joints such as wrists, knees, hips, and shoulders, which are commonplace for pain and issues in seniors. Many popular weightlifting exercises such as squats or lunges also utilise our balance on top of strength, increasing the risk of slipping or falling.

For these reasons, unless you’re an experienced athlete, it’s even more crucial to consult a health professional before starting to work out, as well as working with a qualified trainer and sticking to lower weights.

How To Lift Weights Safely As A Senior

Warm Up First

This is a general exercise tip but one that warrants repeating.

Before attempting any type of exercise, it’s important to do a warmup routine – 5 to 10 minutes of light cardio and stretching should do the trick. Warming up increases our heart rate and blood flow, activating our muscles and joints and signaling them to prepare for physical exercise.

Focus On Form and Technique

Proper form and technique are crucial for efficient and safe exercising.

Firstly, they ensure you’re using the correct muscles for the intended exercise. This leads to greater exercise results as well as less wasted energy.

Secondly, exercise form and technique are crucial for preventing injuries. When you misuse the equipment or do the exercise incorrectly, you increase the stress on your muscles and joints, which can lead to strains, sprains, and other injuries.

Start With Lighter Weights

This is directly tied into the previous section on form and technique.

Unless you’re an experienced athlete who knows proper exercise form and is familiar with their physical limitations, it’s better to start slowly and work your way up over time. This will allow your muscles and joints to gradually adapt to the stress of weightlifting, reducing the risk of injury and promoting streamlined progress.

Get Proper Exercise Shoes

Improper exercise gear can lead to performance issues and injury just as much as poor technique or form.

Getting the right type of shoe for exercising is important. Shoes are meant to provide support, stability, and protection for your feet, ankles, and knees during physical activity. The right shoes prevent excessive pronation (inward rolling of the foot) or supination (outward rolling of the foot) during exercise, reducing the chance of injury as well as preventing loss of balance.

Some of the best overall shoes for exercising are CrossFit shoes, as they provide a good blend of safety and comfort features and come at moderate prices for workout footwear. If you’re unfamiliar with the type of shoes to look for and which brands give the best value for money, we highly recommend checking out our guide on getting proper CrossFit shoes.

Use a Weightlifting Belt For Back Support

Lower back issues are a common occurrence as we age. For this reason, it’s highly recommended that senior citizens use a weightlifting belt. These belts provide support and stability to the lower back by stabilising the spine and redistributing force more evenly throughout your core. The result is less pain and reduced risk of injury.

safe weightlifting for seniorsOur suggested choice is the Nylon Weightlifting Belt by Warm Body Cold Mind.

Nylon weightlifting belts are highly durable and resistant to wear and tear, on top of being more lightweight, breathable, and flexible than standard leather lifting belts. The belt features a contoured design that wraps nicely to the shape of your lower back and provides a comfortable fit.

Using a high-quality metal clasp with an easy auto-lock system and a large velcro strap, the belt stays nice and secure during exercise. On top of that, the price point for this belt is excellent when compared to competitors.

It is available in five different sizes (S, M, L, XL, XXL), as well as four colour options (Black, Blue, Pink, Khaki).

Listen To Your Body

Paying attention to your body queues is the best way to feel out potential physical issues and injuries. This is another general workout tip. However, as a senior weight training, it’s even more important, as proneness to injury increases with age, while the recovery process becomes longer and more difficult. If you experience pain or discomfort, stop exercising and consult a healthcare professional.

Weightlifting Exercises For Seniors

Squats. Squats are a popular compound exercise that help to strengthen your core and lower body, which can also improve balance and explosiveness. There are various squat types that target slightly different muscle groups, including front squats, back squats, sumo squats, etc.

Lunges. Similar to squats, lunges provide excellent exercise for your core and lower body, but focus more on single-leg strength and balance.

Deadlifts. Deadlifts are another highly recommended compound exercise for strengthening your lower back, core, and legs. They’re excellent for improving posture and reducing the risk of falls.

Bench Press. Bench presses are staples of upper body strength development. They strengthen the chest and arms, as well as your grip.

Standing Rows. Standing rows strengthen the upper back, shoulders, and arms, as well as improve your grip. They’re also excellent for practising balance in a bent position, helping you with daily activities such as picking up objects.

Shoulder Press. Shoulder presses are excellent for strengthening your shoulders and upper back. On top of that, they promote good upper body posture and overhead mobility.

Bicep Curls. One of the staples of arm exercises. It helps with muscle growth, on top of improving arm mobility, pull motion, and grip strength.

Tricep Extensions. Another staple arm exercise. They also promote muscle growth, develop your grip, and exercise your push motion.

Calf Raises. Calf raises are excellent lower leg muscle exercises, which also promote better balance and stability on your feet.

Weightlifting Routines For Seniors

Here’s a simple exercise routine for senior weight training based on the above-mentioned exercises. The routine is based on exercising every other day and split into upper and lower body sections.

Day 1 – Lower Body:
  • Squats – 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Lunges – 3 sets of 8-10 reps (per leg)
  • Deadlift – 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Calf Raises – 3 sets of 12-15 reps
Day 2 – Rest
Day 3 – Upper Body:
  • Bench Press – 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Rows – 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Shoulder Press – 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Biceps Curls – 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Triceps Extensions – 3 sets of 8-10 reps
Day 4 – Rest, then repeat the cycle.

On a by-weekly workout schedule, it should look something like this:

Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, followed by Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday – then repeat.

As you become more accustomed to weightlifting, you can even start implementing a full-body workout day (all exercises in one day), followed by two days of rest.

Conclusion

Staying physically active and maintaining a healthy lifestyle improves your quality of life, even as you age. When done correctly and safely, weightlifting for seniors has immaculate health benefits. It helps you stay in shape and avoid common aging issues such as muscle and bone deterioration, as well as chronic diseases, physical limitations, and cognitive decline, among others.

Are you a senior looking to start weightlifting?

Which of these tips have you found most helpful or interesting?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

 

 

 

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Caroline Cann
Caroline Cann
11 months ago

Really interesting & informative article but a link to each of the exercises listed showing how they can be carried out correctly would be very helpful.

WILLIAM PATTERSON
WILLIAM PATTERSON
3 months ago

a diagram would help.Not sure if one day rest is enough if you are over 70.Not enough detail on lifting weights

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