Weight Training For
Seniors By Nicki Anderson -
Take advice from grandson - "Begin lifting weights,
From Nicki Anderson's column in the
Chicago's Daily Herald
I am a 60-year-old male and have not been very active other than to play a
periodic game of golf. My grandson told me that I could lift weights and
improve my balance, which isn't very good, as well as my heart. Is that
possible at my age? By the way, I am on high blood pressure medication, weigh
about 220 pounds and am 6 feet tall.
Your grandson is giving you
sound advice. Lifting weights to increase strength does great things for the
body - at any age. In fact, strength training may be more important for
middle-aged and older adults than it is for younger people. And several studies
show that weight training improves cardiovascular conditioning and reduces the
risk or progression of osteoporosis.
I shared your question with fitness expert
Phil Campbell, author of "Ready, Set, Go! Synergy Fitness." He agreed that
strength training offers many benefits for older adults, including increased
endurance, lower blood pressure, reduced insulin resistance and body fat, and
increased resting metabolic rate. Strength training reduces pain in knee
joints. Most importantly, it lowers the risk of falls by improving balance -
and falls can be deadly in older populations.
Campbell cited research reported on the
National Institute of Health's Web site, which concludes that "a prolonged
total strength-training program would lead to large gains in maximal strength
and power." While this almost sounds like an ad in a muscle magazine for ripped
bodybuilders, it's not. This is how mainstream researchers describe the impact
of weight training for men in your age group.
Campbell added that it takes a combination
of functional exercises like walking, tai chi, swimming, running or specific
balance and stability exercises to apply the strength gains produced from
weight training in order to improve balance. Experienced fitness professionals
understand the need for balance and stability training and typically add it to
a client's fitness plans.
So how do you get started? It's important
to begin any exercise program with a progressive fitness plan in mind. This
simply means that you should start with low-intensity exercise, once your
physician gives you the go-ahead.
After several weeks, progressively move the
intensity up to a moderate level. Once you're conditioned with this level of
exercise intensity, researchers show that high-intensity exercise is effective
for adults of all ages.
One concern that trainers have for their
clients, especially those with high blood pressure, is the need for proper
breathing. Holding your breath during strength training can cause your blood
pressure to dramatically increase, so you want to be sure to breathe throughout
your repetitions. I tell my clients to count out loud, which helps to regulate
There's one other important study that
Campbell says just may inspire you to make the commitment to begin a strength
training program today. Researchers took 40 adults whose average age was 69,
divided them into two groups and had them complete either six months of weight
training or six months of endurance training.
The results were surprising. The
endurance-trained group improved "oxidative capacity" (the body's ability to
supply oxygen to the blood) by 31 percent, but the resistance-trained group
improved 57 percent. The weight-training group also experienced a 10 percent
increase in muscle size.
Since the endurance group in this study
made remarkable improvements and the resistance-training group almost doubled
those positive results, why not make the commitment today to add strength
training to your fitness improvement plan? And then tell your grandson that
he'd better watch out, because you may be challenging him to a bench press
contest in a few months!
Campbell offers a free newsletter that tracks the research in the area of
fitness training for older adults. Visit
Nicki Anderson is a certified personal
trainer, author and owner of Reality Fitness in Naperville
National Institutes of Health
research cited in newsletter,
Research Summary 1
Research Summary 2
Research Summary 3
Research Summary 4
Research Summary 5
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NOTE: The purpose of this article is to
expand thinking about fitness as an informational source for readers, and is
not medical advice. Before attempting the Synergy Fitness program, the Sprint 8
Workout, or any high-intensity exercise program, consult your physician. This
is not just a liability warning; it's wise to have a baseline medical exam
before beginning a fitness program. Make your physician a partner in your
fitness improvement plan.