When exactly are you too old to participate in resistance training? Is it dangerous? Is it worth it and what are the benefits? There are so many people out there being fed misinformation about incorporating resistance training into your weekly routine. I want to clear up a few things and provide some reference and guidance on this topic. My main target for this post is women 50 and older and I have a very specific reason for that. While there are resources out there to provide guidance, they can be difficult to find and even harder to understand for the novice weight trainer. So, let’s get this journey started and hopefully, we’ll both learn some things on the way.
So, when are you too old to begin resistance training? In my opinion, you are never too old to get started. However, there are a few guidelines that need to be established and adhered to, in order to be successful and to avoid very serious injuries. First is, TAKE IT SLOW!!!! If you have never lifted weights before or have been out of the game a few years you need to ease into it. I would go so far as to recommend a personal trainer for this, to at least get you started. With a personal trainer, you are paying someone trained in resistance training and health to ensure that you are doing things properly to limit the chance of injury. There are several sanctioning bodies that offer personal training certifications in areas such as 50+ training. Be sure to look up info on any trainer that you consider using and ask who they are certified with, and what additional certs do they have. If you want to go it alone we will talk about that too later in the article and I will provide a sample routine.
Next, is resistance training dangerous? Yes and no. Yes, you are using your muscles to move heavy items and that comes with inherent risks. To minimize these risks, when you begin, use machines and weights that you can lift with good form for 12-15 repetitions. Another risk that has been brought to my attention is the elevation of Cortisol levels in the body. A quick education on cortisol. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone and is produced in the adrenal gland. Prolonged periods of elevated cortisol levels have been shown to cause muscle breakdown and the addition of abdominal fat. However, when you weight train, while raising Cortisol level, as you recover this spike in levels is good for burning fat and quickly returns to normal There is so much more to be said about Cortisol but we are going to keep it short for this article, but here is a link to a very good article/interview about Cortisol (Edit: I was trying to include a link to an article, but a certain company is more concerned with selling products than educating people.) If you google “Cortisol and weight training” there is a very good article by Pauline Nordin doing an interview with muscle-science researcher, Jerry Brainum. Sorry I can’t provide a direct link.
Now the final question. Is it worth it and what are the benefits? My answer to the first question is a resounding YES! It is absolutely worth it to incorporate resistance training into your weekly routine and here is why. Resistance training makes your muscles grow. As we age our muscles begin to break down. There is no way to stop this from happening, it is just part of the natural process. However, with the addition of weight training, you can slow and even, mildly reverse the process. Your body is an amazing machine and adapts to the environment that you put it in. When you lift weights your muscles must grow and strengthen themselves to adapt. This has an additional benefit. As stated, resistance training adds muscle mass and that is key in slowing one of the biggest health concerns for women over 50 and that is osteoporosis. When you strengthen your muscle fibers they add protection around your bones and this increases bone density. Exercise also releases endorphins, aka the happy hormone. This added release of endorphins has been shown to help those suffering from mild to moderate depression. It has also been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and helps in the fight against some types of cancer. Lastly, weight training and fitness will give you a sense of accomplishment and pride. When you feel good about your body you feel good about yourself. You walk with your head a little higher and are more confident. Here is another article on the benefits of weight training benefits http://www.humankinetics.com/news-and-excerpts/news-and-excerpts/13-benefits-of-strength-training-for-people-older-than-50
Here are my suggestions for beginning a resistance program for a complete novice. We are going to start with two days a week, using Tuesday and Thursday. For both days, we are going to incorporate a full body circuit:
Tuesday & Thursday
Push Ups: 3 sets 15 (can be done on knees if necessary)
Dumbbell/Resistance Bands Bicep Curls: 3 sets 12-15
Seated Shoulder Press: 3 sets 12-15
Single Arm Dumbbell Row: 3 sets 12-15
Tricep Kickbacks: 3 sets 12-15
Body Weight Lunges: 3 sets 8-10 each leg
Planks: 3 sets 30 seconds
On Monday, Wednesday and Friday do 30 minutes of light cardio. Start with walking and then you can move up to jogging. The goal is just to keep your heart rate elevated for at least 20 minutes to get in extra calorie burn and work that heart muscle.
My last bit of advice is to ensure that you are taking a quality multi-vitamin. You are going to be damaging muscle fibers and they need nutrients to rebuild. Find one that is in a capsule, for easy absorption and something that is designed for women. My recommendation is 1st Phorm’s M-Factor Goddess, which I have included a link to https://1stphorm.com/a/AdamDelgado/41fdf1bf/Wp
And as always, don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. Keep making 2017 your best year yet!!