Weight training as we get older is not optional.
It’s necessary to prevent and/or reverse the loss of both muscle and bone loss that occurs naturally as we age. It also provides ease of movement, pain relief, and increased metabolism, among many other benefits.
But what to know before beginning?
Below are my top six tips to weight train safely and effectively, especially for us ‘older exercisers’. 😉
First comes first – The Warmup
Warming up prepares our body and mind to exercise. Our heart rate increases and our body warms, sending signals to our muscles that it’s time to work. Give yourself 5-10 minutes of any cardio activity at a low to moderate pace.
You must stress your muscles and bones to make them stronger. I often use the example of doing a bicep curl with a pen. You could lift it 100 times and it won’t make your muscles or bones stronger. It’s just too light. You must challenge your muscles and push them beyond what they’re easily capable of to see change.
And be sure to mix it up. Our muscles adapt to repetitive movements. Keeping them guessing leads to greater strength gains.
This brings us to – Rest
When we truly stress our muscles, we create micro-tears in them. (This sounds bad, but it’s not!) Once this happens, the healing process makes them stronger. This healing can take one to a few days. It’s important to rest during this time. And by rest, I mean no weight training the same muscle groups two days in a row. You can still walk, do cardio or strength train other muscle groups.
Train for Balance
It’s no secret that the risk of falling increases as we age. And the consequences can be life-changing, especially if osteoporosis is a factor.
Strength training helps improve balance. We should also be including specific balance exercises in our workouts. The most basic balance exercise is just standing on one foot. (Make sure you’re near a counter or something else to grab onto if needed.) Once you’ve mastered you’re balance on one foot, you can add some instability to the mix. Stand on pillow, or something else that makes you wobble. Balance exercise strengthen your support base and also train your nerve fibers to know your body’s position in space (proprioception).
Food and Water
Muscles need protein to grow. Make sure you’re getting plenty of lean protein and anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits and veggies. And don’t forget the calcium and vitamin D!
And of course, water. Make sure you’re getting approximately 64 ounces each day. More if you sweat a lot with your workouts.
Our muscles and connective tissue, such as ligaments and tendons, get less flexible as we age. And weight training can make it worse. Stretching is important for ease of movement and can help prevent back pain. Stretch after each workout, while your muscles are warm.
Good luck and let me know if I can help!