|Are You Too Old to Pump Iron?
By: Jean Bowler
Are you too old for weight lifting? Will weight lifting help
you stay and look younger? The answer to the first question is
no and to the second is a resounding yes. Weight lifting will
help both men and women stay fit and supple and might even help
you look younger. And, no matter what your age, you’re not too
old to start.
Dr.Walter Bortz, in The Journal of the American Medical
Association, 1982, stated that a number of the physical
changes we undergo as we age, such as loss of muscle tone,
organ deterioration, and osteoporosis are “indistinguishable
whether caused by age or inactivity.” He believed that exercise
could delay many of the diseases associated with aging, adding
“at least a portion of the changes commonly attributed to aging
are in reality caused by disuse and, as such, subject to
As we age, we lose bone density and muscle mass. We get stiff
and our joints creak. Instead of using our body, we “rest” it
even more, starting a very dangerous downward spiral. The
synovial fluid dries up, the tendons become brittle, the sinews
grow weak. It hurts to move, so we don’t.
More recently Dr Henry Lodge and Chris Cowley published a new
book on this theme, "Younger Next Year: A Guide to Living Like
50 Until You're 80 and Beyond". The premise of this book is that
weight lifting will help reverse the loss of both bone density
and muscle mass that begins to take place as we get older. And
they’re not talking about light weights, but rather big heavy
In July 1983, Terry Todd wrote in Sports Illustrated that “Anyone
who has spent much time in what is sometimes called the "Iron Game"
has, of course, seen weight trainers over 40 whose physiques were…
surprisingly youthful. Apparently there is something about the act
of regularly stressing your body with heavy exercise that gives it
the wherewithal to resist the visual manifestations of advancing
age…research in this area suggests that men and women of middle age
will respond to systemic progressive resistance with weights by
becoming more powerful and more flexible, with more endurance and
In 2003, the Centers for Disease Control reported that strength
training "can be very powerful in reducing the signs and symptoms of
numerous diseases and chronic conditions, among them:arthritis,
diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, back pain and depression."
Strength training will also increase your flexibility and balance,
which decreases the likelihood and severity of falls. One study in
New Zealand in women 80 years of age and older showed a 40% reduction
in falls with simple strength and balance training.
I don’t agree that we need to undertake heavy weight training to
see substantial benefits.
The American College of Sports Medicine strength training
guidelines say we should start with at least two days a week of
any type of resistance exercise by doing 8 to 10 different exercises
and doing 8 to 12 repetitions per day. A repetition is how many times
you lift the weight or do the exercise.
So start off with a weight that you can lift correctly for at least
8 reps, even if it’s only 2 to 5 pounds. Rest between each set of
repetitions and between each exercise. If you can't make it to 8 reps
during the first few tries, don't give up. Do as much as you can do.
You'll be suprised at how soon you will feel like you need to add a
bit more weight.
But the goal is not to become a body builder, but rather to restore
your muscle tone and joint movement. You can gradually work your way
up to heavier weights if you desire, but you will obtain the best
benefit by avoiding injury and sticking to the program – lifting
weights every two or three days.
An excellent resource on this subject is Getting Stronger: Weight
Training for Men and Women by Bill Pearl and Gary Moran, Ph.D. I have
the edition that came out in 1986. A newer one is now available.
I have referred to it constantly over the last 19 years.
The book gives you tips and pointers on how to set up a strength
training regime. There are illustrations of every exercise with step
by step instructions on how to do them properly.
You can either learn beginning to advanced body building, sports
fitness routines to help you do better in 22 different sports,
exercises to help prevent injuries at work or just the principles
of general conditioning and strength training.
And you don’t need any fancy equipment to get going. Almost all the
exercises use cheap dumbbells and weights that are available in just
about every sporting goods store. All in all, this is a very
comprehensive book on weight training and is especially helpful to
those of us who have never lifted weights before.
If you have any disease, injury or physical disability, consult the
doctor who has been treating you before undertaking these exercises.
Follow his advice on how to get started and do not strength train if
he says not to.
Start off slowly with light weights. Follow the diagrams in the book
to make sure you’re positioning your body correctly to avoid injury
and obtain the best result from your workout.
After several weeks, you will be well on your way to improving your
appearance, physique and general attitude toward life, while doing
wonders for you internal organs and maybe even fighting off disease.
“Use it or lose it” applies to just about every part of your body.
Don’t “lose it” because of inactivity and disuse.
This article is for informational purposes only. It does not purport
to offer medical advice. Consult a qualified physician before
undertaking any exercise program.
By: Jean Bowler
About the Author
Ms Bowler has taught ballet, gymnatics and aerobics and has been a personal coach.
She is very interested in antiaging research.
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