Often people have wondered if there is an age that would be considered too old to start weight lifting or strength training, or even just keep weightlifting if one has previously engaged in such exercise. Meanwhile, more and more medical studies show the benefits of lifting weights in old age, and less risk than you’d think in starting to lift weights for the first time in old age.
One study which was discussed in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at two groups of people – one in their late 60’s and the other comprised of 25-year-olds. The initial findings were that there was less muscle wasting and more nutrients supplied to muscles after a meal in the younger group than the older, without altering their exercise patterns. Then there was a follow-up study which discovered that just a few exercise sessions for 20 weeks made a vast improvement – it was enough to reverse muscle wasting in the older group, specifically due to better blood flow.
The term sarcopenia refers to the fact that eventually, age-related muscle loss occurs in older people. Yet those who participate in weight lifting are able to counteract this muscle loss; it was found that people in the age category of 61-80 years old could, by weight lifting, add on average approximately 2.4 lbs of muscle, and even reduce their physical age by half a decade!
Other benefits to weight lifting in old age include being able to:
Secure functional independence
This is a huge concern as people age and loses mobility – that they might no longer be able to live alone or get around by themselves, but weight lifting can improve and help a person keep their independence longer.
Improve bone health
Another concern for many as they age is the deterioration of bone, but weight lifting can increase bone mineral density.
Improve cardiovascular health
o Control cholesterol – increasing HDL’s and decreasing LDL’s
o Regulate blood pressure
Support mental health
By reducing depression and anxiety and increasing one’s self-perception and mood in general, weight lifting has a lot to offer for mental wellness.
Reduce mortality risk
Just 20 minutes of weight lifting a day according to one study can decrease early death by 32%; another study showed weight lifting twice a week to lower mortality by 42%.
Improve cognitive function
Weight lifting encourages the growth of new neurons and improves memory.
Fight type 2 diabetes
By reducing insulin resistance and increasing glucose absorption in cells, among other functions, weight lifting fights diabetes in multiple ways.
Improve sleep quality
Studies have shown that weight lifting can aid sleep in reducing the time it takes one to fall asleep and reducing disruptions such as issues arising from sleep apnea.
Aid in recovery from hip fractures
Considering a bad fall and rough recovery from hip injuries are a common reason for the loss of mobility and independence for older adults, this is a serious consideration for why weight lifting should be pursued.
Improve pain from osteoarthritis
Weight lifting has been shown to reduce pain as it strengthens the surrounding tissues.
Burn fat and keep weight in check
Weight lifting can increase your metabolic rates and muscle mass significantly.
With all of these benefits, there is surely a good case for starting or continuing weight lifting no matter what point you are at in life!
Regardless of your age, you should always consult a physician prior to starting any weight lifting or strength training regimen to ensure you have no underlying health issues that would conflict with your desired training program. Also, proper gear can offer support and prevent injuries, such as an elbow sleeve or a knee sleeve. Knee and elbow sleeves work by using compression to improve the rate at which muscles receive oxygen and nutrients, while also keeping the joint and surrounding tissues warm – which is especially important in older age for preventing injuries. Just as important, they also provide support and stabilization to the muscle group.
The bottom line is: There is no age too old to begin weight lifting! The benefits are many, and may not only extend but also improve your life in a variety of ways.