Weight Lifting Benefits in Older Adults

By Western Berks on December 29th, 2015

When someone talks about weight lifting, perhaps you picture young, muscled athletes lifting outrageously heavy barbells over their heads. But today, weight lifting, or strength training as it is sometimes called, is for everyone. Studies have shown that moderate weight lifting produces significant health benefits in older adults, even if they do not begin exercising with weights until their 70s, 80s or even 90s.

After age 30, most people begin to lose muscle mass. Strength noticeably declines beginning around age 50. This was once thought to be inevitable, but we now know that these losses can be reversed. Some of the proven benefits of strength training for older individuals include:

  • Increased strength and flexibility
  • Better balance and coordination
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Increased bone density

These weight lifting benefits for older adults add up to a decreased risk of falling, improved physical and emotional health, and a more independent lifestyle.

Most people, even frail individuals with chronic health problems, can exercise with weights. Just talk to us before you begin. Exercising should be done under the supervision of a physical therapist or health professional familiar with the American College of Sports Medicine’s strength-training guidelines for older individuals. After an initial evaluation, we can develop a personalized weight-lifting program based on your current level of fitness. Sessions for older individuals are usually 20 to 30 minutes long, two or three times per week on nonconsecutive days.

Strength training can be done with free weights or weight machines. Weight machines are often preferred because they offer more body support and allow weight to be increased in smaller increments. Many health and fitness facilities and community centers have special programs designed for novice, older weight lifters. Fitness gains often can be seen within a few weeks, and lifestyle benefits within a few months. Most importantly, it is never too late to start!

If you are considering starting a new weight lifting regimen, Western Berks Physical Therapy can help you design a safe and goal-oriented weight lifting program. Please feel free to contact us to learn more.

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