Reader Question: I’m in my 50s and I walk everyday and eat well. Do I need to strength train?
Susan’s Answer: Yes, strength training should be a part of everyone’s active lifestyle.
As you age, your muscles begin to shrink and lose mass. The number and the size of your muscle fibers also decrease. Fortunately, you can counteract the effects of the aging process by exercising. Exercise can increase the strength and size of your muscles.
Aging is also associated with a loss of bone mass which could lead to osteoporosis. Resistance exercise has been shown to increase the bone density and can help decrease the chance of osteoporosis or slow down the effects if you already have it. Exercise also helps keep your joints mobile which can help prevent or decrease arthritis symptoms. Studies have shown that arthritis sufferers actually decreased their joint pain by weight lifting.
Increasing your muscle strength and endurance makes it easier for you to perform daily tasks and helps you maintain your balance. Falls are a leading cause of injury in older adults and can be prevented with regular strength training.
Strength training also decreases the risk of injuries. Muscles serve as shock absorbers and balancing agents. A stronger muscle will help to dissipate the repetitive landing forces in weight bearing activities such as walking or running. Up to 80% of low back problems are muscular in nature and can be prevented with regular, balanced strength training.
Resistance training builds lean muscle tissue which burns more calories than fat. So even when you’re not lifting weights your body’s metabolism is working faster. This can help you lose weight or maintain your weight.
While some muscle soreness and slight fatigue is normal, sore joints, exhaustion and painful muscle pulls are not normal. You may be lifting too much or too many times or you may not be lifting with the correct form. If you cannot lift a weight at least 8 times it is too heavy for you right now. If you are able to easily lift more than 15 times it is too light. Aim to weight train 2-3 times a week and make sure to always give your muscles a day off in between.
Consider hiring a personal trainer to show you which exercises are best for you or join a weight-lifting class. You can also buy a book like the Impowerage book, It’s Never Too Late to Be Fit which gives you 3 levels of work-outs.
* Please consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program
About the Author: Susan Manning is a BCRPA TFL, ACE, ACSM, TWIST certified Advanced Health & Fitness Specialist in BC. She is Dr. Carolyn Anderson’s co-author of It’s Never Too Late To Be Fit, a comprehensive guide for older adult’s fitness.