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The benefits of lifting weights when you are older

by Lucia Dore

I went to a lesson on “Weights for Women” the other night at my regular gym. It was 7.00pm and I normally go at 7.30 in the morning. I thought I would learn how to use weights more wisely. I did. I was probably the oldest person there (58) though and the weights at 20 kilos were still too heavy for me. A weight of 15 kilos is all I can manage. That’s what happens as you age.

Apart from learning how to use the weights correctly, we learned the benefits of weight training for women. As well as maintaining your weight or even helping to lose weight, if that is the aim, resistance training can improve muscle strength and tone, protecting you from injury, and improving or maintaining flexibility and balance.

This is important as you grow older for maintaining flexibility, strength and balance can help you remain independence as you age. It also increases muscle-to-fat ratio, improving muscle strength and tone, thereby helping to protect your joints from injury. This also ensures your body burns more kilojoules when at rest. (That’s good news).

There are other benefits too. A recent Swedish study found that physical activity was the number one contributor to longevity, adding extra years to your life—even if you don’t start exercising until your senior years. But getting active is not just about adding years to your life, it’s about adding life to your years, as the website, HelpGuide says. (Go to

From experience, I know that getting moving can help boost your energy. You can do so much more, and much earlier in the day too. Exercise also protects your heart, and, according to studies, enables you to manage symptoms of illness or pain as well as your weight.

Regular exercise is also good for your mind, mood, and memory, according to studies. I’m sure it is. I run regularly and bike (on a manual one as opposed to an electric one) as well swimming sometimes. That’s the best exercise. I hope it’s helping.

Studies also show that people who exercise tend to have improved immune and digestive functioning, better blood pressure and bone density, and a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, and certain cancers. It’s just as well. Since diabetes, Type 1, runs in my family and bowel cancer is rife, exercising seems more important.

There are six myths about activity and aging, according to the website, According to the website, HelpGuide,com, the first myth is:

“There’s no point to exercising. I’m going to get old anyway.”

The second myth is: “Exercise puts me at risk of falling down. Fact: Regular exercise, by building strength and stamina, prevents loss of bone mass and improves balance, actually reducing your risk of falling.

The third myth is: “It’s too frustrating; I’ll never be the athlete I once was.”

Fact: “Changes in hormones, metabolism, bone density, and muscle mass mean that your strength and performance levels inevitably decline with age. But that doesn’t mean you can no longer derive a sense of achievement from physical activity or improve your health. The key is to set lifestyle goals that are appropriate for your age. And remember: a sedentary lifestyle takes a much greater toll on athletic ability than biological aging.”

Myth 4: “I’m too old to start exercising.”

Fact: “You’re never too old to get moving and improve your health! In fact, adults who become active later in life often show greater physical and mental improvements than their younger counterparts. If you’ve never exercised before, or it’s been a while, you won’t be encumbered by the same sports injuries that many regular exercisers experience in later life. In other words, there aren’t as many miles on your clock so you’ll quickly start reaping the rewards. Just begin with gentle activities and build up from there.”

Myth 5: “I can’t exercise because I’m disabled.”

Fact: “If you’re chair-bound, you obviously face special challenges. However, you can lift light weights, stretch, and do chair aerobics, chair yoga, and chair tai chi to increase your range of motion, improve muscle tone and flexibility, and promote cardiovascular health. Many swimming pools offer access to wheelchair users and you can also find adaptive exercise programs for wheelchair sports such as basketball.

Myth 6: “I’m too weak or have too many aches and pains.”

Fact: “Getting moving can help you manage pain and improve your strength and self-confidence. Many older people find that regular activity not only helps stem the decline in strength and vitality that comes with age, but actually improves it. The key is to start off gently.”

Photo: Shutterstock. "Resistance training can improve muscle strength and tone."

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