When we think of exercise for seniors it’s easy to fall into chair yoga, aqua aerobics, or walking. While all those are excellent for improving health and brain function, one of the most important forms of exercise is not just for the young: weight lifting.
Science shows weight training is a superior form of exercise for seniors regardless of whether you’ve been doing it your whole life or have never lifted weights before.
About 80 percent of adults fail to meet recommended guidelines for physical activity. Lack of physical exercise is one of the biggest factors to aging poorly and succumbing to chronic diseases such as diabetes and dementia.
A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of such health conditions as:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Cholesterol issues
- Metabolic syndrome
While it’s important to practice good form to prevent injury and make sure you’re cleared by your doctor, there is no reason the elderly should stay away from strenuous activity. Using your muscles isn’t inherently dangerous just because you’re older. In fact, weight training will make you feel and function better.
Weight training reduces the risk of falling and injuries from falling by maintaining or increasing muscle mass and bone density.
It also promotes mobility and helps combat depression and cognitive decline.
Strength training also prolongs life and reduces all causes of death, including cancer and cardiac death.
An analysis of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) database found that adults 65 and older who weight trained twice a week had a 46 percent lower mortality rate.
The analysis outlined 78 weight lifting benefits for seniors, including:
- Combat age-related muscle loss and sarcopenia
- Burn fat and increase muscle mass
- Support functional independence
- Improve quality of life
- Improve osteoarthritis and bone health
- Increase cardiovascular health
- Improve mental health and cognitive functioning
- Reduce mortality risk
- Fight Type 2 diabetes
- Improve quality of sleep
- Recover from hip fractures
Is weight lifting riskier in old age?
Lifting weights has risks at any age, however, hundreds of studies show it is perfectly safe as you age.
It’s all a matter of knowing how to safely use equipment, warm up and cool down, and using proper form.
Before starting, get cleared by your doctor. This is especially true if you haven’t exercised before or have taken a long break from physical activity.