Body Over 50: The Winning Advantages of Weightlifting for Seniors

Let’s admit it. Hearing the words weight training or weightlifting for seniors might cause a little pressure, especially if you have never spent much time in the gym, or you’re not confident if your bones and muscles are strong enough to endure the activity. 

Weightlifting has long been associated with only bodybuilders and extreme athletes. However, this is a popular misconception, as weightlifting has numerous benefits for people of all ages, including seniors!

Weightlifting as an exercise for seniors

The NHS recommends that adults over the age of 65 engage in physical activity every day and do activities to improve strength, balance, and flexibility at least twice a week. It also suggests 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity if you are already active.

In line with this, a study suggests that activities that strengthen the muscles, such as weightlifting for seniors, should be included in an older person’s weekly exercise routine.

Aerobic and muscle exercisers lived longer lives than those who only did one or the other, according to US researchers. The good news is going to the gym is not required; carrying heavy shopping bags, digging in the garden, and pilates all count!

The US study, which was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, polled over 150,000 people in their 60s and 70s about their exercise habits and then followed up with them.

People who got the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week lived longer than those who didn’t, according to the researchers, but those who combined regular aerobic exercise with strengthening activities once or twice a week fared even better.

Over the next nine years, they had a 47% lower risk of dying from any cause other than cancer than those who were not active at all. 

Weightlifting alone reduced the risk by up to 9-22%, while aerobic exercise reduced it by 24-34%. Aerobic exercise, which works the heart and lungs, includes brisk walking, running, cycling, and swimming.

Moreover, weightlifting for seniors was also found to benefit women more than men in the study.

The study’s authors, from the National Cancer Institute in Maryland and the University of Iowa, explained that muscle-strengthening exercises could make the body leaner and the bones stronger, resulting in a healthier old age.

“Our finding that mortality risk appeared to be lowest for those who participated in both types of exercise provides strong support for current recommendations to engage in both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities,” said study author Dr Jessica Gorzelitz.

“Older adults would probably benefit from adding weightlifting exercises to their physical activity routines.”

Their study focused only on weights, but the researchers say other types of exercise would also apply such as push-ups, squats, burpees and pilates.

The benefits of weightlifting for seniors

Weightlifting for seniors may appear to be just a way to get stronger, but it affects participants’ entire bodies and moods.

Seniors who exercise regularly will notice improvements in a variety of areas, including their physical appearance, biological health, and even psychological behaviours.

Physical: You look better!

Physical advantages of seniors who practice weightlifting are seen through their outward appearance or ability. This includes weight loss, increased flexibility, and larger muscles. 

It’s important to keep your joints active and strong as you get older, and it doesn’t have to be carrying dumbbells or heavy weights. You can actually do simple things like picking up grocery bags!

Biological: You feel better!

When weightlifting, or doing any exercise, your body responds by making small but significant changes in your daily biological function. For example, your heart rate begins to rise, and your blood begins to circulate faster. 

Your blood becomes more oxygenated and thus travels more efficiently throughout your body. It even aids in cholesterol reduction. Overall, exercise can help your body function better!

Psychological: You think better!

Here comes the most rewarding benefit of weightlifting for seniors. Aside from keeping your body healthy and in shape, it can also reduce stress, boost self-esteem, increase energy, and improve overall mood.

Being physically active on a weekly basis will give you a sense of accomplishment after each workout. When you begin to see your progress, you will surely be proud of what you accomplished on your own!

How to begin a weightlifting routine

Although we know that strength training over the age of 50 has proven benefits, it can be difficult to know where to begin with a “best weightlifting for seniors” workout plan.

If you haven’t worked out in a long time, you can start with low-resistance body-weight exercises like walking or dancing. This can help your muscles adjust to the change in the actual routine.

3 Easy Weightlifting Exercises for Seniors

If you want to practise weightlifting but don’t want something too strenuous, here are some geriatric weight lifting exercises, as well as variations to make them easier!

Note that strength can be built with a single set of 12 to 15 repetitions with a weight that fatigues your muscles. All you need for these examples is a set of dumbbells or evenly weighted items like soup cans, and of course, your warmed-up self!

1. Squats

The squat is the most well-known weight-lifting exercise, and it works your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip flexors. It is excellent for improving balance and core stability.

How to do squats

Begin by standing tall and with your feet shoulder width apart. Then, push your hips back into a seated position while keeping your arms straight out in front of you. Bend your knees until they are 90 degrees. Then, return to a standing position by pushing up through your heels.

What’s an easy alternative to doing squats?

Try a chair squat by lowering yourself with a chair or bench behind you. Then, just before you touch, push upward. If you have trouble with balance, this extra safety measure can be beneficial.

2. Overhead Press

An overhead press works your chest, shoulders, arms, and back muscles. It aids in maintaining arm mobility during everyday activities such as dressing.

How to do an overhead press

Lift the dumbbells to your shoulders with your palms facing up/forward while standing with a dumbbell in each hand. When you’re fully extended, lift the weights above your head with your biceps near your ears. Return to the starting position with the dumbbells slightly resting on your shoulders. Lift with care, not arching your back, and use a lighter weight if you feel shaky.

What’s an easy alternative to doing overhead press?

If weights appear to be too heavy, you can get creative and use soup cans or evenly weighted water bottles. This exercise can also be completed from a sitting position for those who can’t stand for long periods.

3. Plank

The plank is a popular resistance training exercise that works muscles all over your body, focusing on the core, shoulders, and arms. A plank is better for your spine and neck than a sit-up or crunch machine and activates muscles deep in your abdomen.

How to do planks

Begin on your hands and knees, then straighten your legs until you’re balancing on your hands and toes — almost like you’re about to start a push-up — and lower yourself onto your elbows. Maintain a straight line with your body, with no curves at your hips or spine. Hold this position for as long as you’re comfortable, gradually increasing the duration.

What’s an easy alternative to doing planks?

Plank on your elbows against the wall, standing several feet away from the wall. For more of a challenge, step your feet backward gradually as you build strength.

What to keep in mind after weightlifting

In addition to selecting the appropriate weights and exercises, it is critical to allow your body adequate rest and recovery time after weightlifting for seniors. This is important to stay energised and injury-free. Moreover, you should also follow a proper nutritional diet to maximise the effects of your workout!