Resistance training and lifting weights offer countless benefits. One of the most important is longevity. Getting older is not the time to give up resistance training.
In fact, any age is a great time to start resistance training. If you do not like going to the gym, you can do calisthenics to get started. Body weight with gravity is our most common form of resistance training, as we perform this style of training just walking up a hill or up stairs, or even sitting down and standing up.
Consider this the natural progression of resistance training that is a broad spectrum that anyone can do:
Take away some of the effects of gravity and you can run, jump, squat and use floating resistance "dumbbells" to get a form of resistance training. This is great for people who are overweight or experience joint pain when walking, who can't use calisthenics as an option yet.
Suspension Training and Weight Machines
These devices offer a way to go lighter and easier than with calisthenics. Squats or rows with a TRX is a useful combination to do both squats and pullups with half of your body weight or more.
Weight machines offer similar options for beginners to push repetitions with lighter weights than push-ups or pull-ups, but with the same movements using chest presses and pulldown machines.
If we don't use them, we lose not only muscle but also our balancing skills. In fact, a great workout for balance is simply doing things -- such as waiting in line -- while standing on one leg for 30 seconds at a time.
You will feel the muscles in your lower leg firing every time you do it. The more you practice this, the better your muscles will be able to keep you up when you stumble.
The basics of resistance training have easy options and difficult options. For instance, push-ups can be done on the knees. Pul-lups are tough and require building up strength to pull even your first one. Dips are also difficult as percentage-wise both are pulling or pushing nearly the entire body weight of the person.
Squats and lunges can be tough on older joints, but these are versatile exercises that have direct carry-over to living. Being able to sit down and stand up is the most basic of fundamental movements we do. Yoga would be considered a calisthenics and resistance training exercise as well.
Adding a weight vest or wrist and ankle weights to calisthenics exercises is the next level for seeing progress in your basic fundamental movements. These include sitting, standing, going up and down stairs, and pushing yourself off the floor in a prone position. Make calisthenics harder by adding weight to all movements even just walking (or rucking).
Dumbbells and Weight Machines
Though you can use these to make calisthenics easier, you can also use these to lift heavier weights and make calisthenics harder. Can you lift more than your body weight with your legs or arms? If you can, you are getting stronger.
Free Weights (Dumbbells, Kettlebells and Barbells)
The entire spectrum of weightlifters, from new lifter to world-class powerlifter, uses the same lifts -- just different weights. You can be a beginner and still lift free weights. As with any activity, learning the proper technique is the first goal, then adding weight as you progress with your strength is the next.
All methods will build bigger and stronger muscles and, in turn, build stronger bones and overall durability and resilience as you age. Many studies demonstrate the positive effects of resistance training on athletes, as well as the older population, even those over 70 years old.
"Before exercise training, older adults were 59% weaker than younger adults, but after six months of training in older adults, strength significantly improved such that they were only 38% lower than young adults," according to the abstract of one study on aged participants who took on a six-month resistance program.
Fitness training is a journey. For most older adults, continuing to train beyond six months will yield continued improvements.
Benefits of Resistance Training:
- Live longer
- Stronger bones and muscles
- More durable joints
- Better sleep and mental health
- Increased durability and balance (prevents falls from being dangerous)
- Look better and feel better
- Burn more calories than walking per time
- Improved mobility (walking, sitting, standing, getting up from floor)
- Improved cognitive abilities
- Improved fat loss and cardiovascular health
You cannot argue with these results. Get lifting and never stop.
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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