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SHOULD YOU LIFT HEAVIER WEIGHTS AS YOU GET OLDER?

SHOULD YOU LIFT HEAVIER WEIGHTS AS YOU GET OLDER? Lean Strong Fitness & Wellness

I was chatting with an awesome, long-time member recently and she had a great question.

“My Doctor said I should lift lighter weights for more reps as I get older. Is this true?”

And as with all great health questions, it depends.

First, what I think this Dr. was getting at was, “I don’t want you to get hurt because of exercise, as recovery is slower when you age.”

If that’s the case, I agree. But you don’t have to, and probably should not, cut back on strength training as you age.

Here’s a few of many reasons why.

SHOULD YOU LIFT HEAVIER WEIGHTS AS YOU GET OLDER? Lean Strong Fitness & Wellness

Strong at 60 – if Greg can do this, think of how easy other physical work is for him!

First, you lose muscle every year as you age – as much as 3% every year after 30.

That’s terrifying.

Muscle is very hard to build, and you need progressive overload – a fancy term for doing more over time – in order to build muscle

Adults with more strength, and therefore muscle, in their later years are healthier, have a higher quality of life, and are more independent.

Increased strength is also associated with greater nervous system function in older adults, which means better reaction time, better cognitive function, and less chance of injury.

It’s the magic pill – well, as close as we’ve got to it.

In short, you should fight tooth and nail for every ounce of muscle you can keep – and ideally build.

Second, strength training builds bone density and connective tissue strength.

About 1 in 5 women over 50 are at risk of osteoporosis, and that is a stat we simply don’t need to live with.

Bone is living tissue, and it can be strengthened for greater resistance to injury.

After all, injury happens – in bone and otherwise – when load exceeds capacity.

Strength training increases your capacity, so loads that previously would have caused harm, you can simply brush off.

Instead of a broken wrist if you slip on ice, you simply hop back up and think “oh shit, that could have been bad” and get on with your day.

Plus, with strength training you’ll also have more coordination and better reaction time, so you’re less likely to get hurt in the first place.

Double win!

Lastly, and probably most importantly, in my experience people who push themselves to get stronger feel happier, more confident, and empowered.

In my opinion, exercising for fat loss is overrated.

Exercising for mental health benefits is massively underrated.

One of the first benefits you have from strength training is better energy, which is quickly followed by improved sleep, a better sex life, a tighter and more toned feeling in your body, and above all feeling freaking awesome and a more positive outlook.

I can’t prove this, but my hunch is you get that outlook because if you expose yourself to challenging things in the gym like progressively heavier weights, you feel the confidence to do other hard things in life.

What once was a “I can’t do that” becomes “I’ve got this”.

It’s magical, and what I love most about strength training.

YOU’RE PROBABLY ASKING, “ALRIGHT, SO WHAT DO I DO?”

SHOULD YOU LIFT HEAVIER WEIGHTS AS YOU GET OLDER? Lean Strong Fitness & Wellness

Cecelia lifting a 95lbs at Lean Strong Fitness

First, don’t be afraid of lifting heavier weights. It’s how you get the benefit.

And if you are afraid, seek out help.

Investing in someone to help you learn how to move well and give you an intelligent, progressive program is one of the best investments you can make in longevity.

They’ll help you use good form, prevent injury, and help you accomplish things you never knew you could – both inside and outside the gym.

Next, make progressive overload your friend. In simple terms, it means doing just a bit more than you did last time.

Add a bit of weight, an extra rep, a little bit less rest… just a teeny tiny bit more than you did before.

You don’t need to lift your maximum weight – and most people shouldn’t – but you should be comfortable doing heavier sets of 3-6 reps with good form where you can really push your body to get stronger and more capable.

That’s why it’s so important to track your workouts – then you know what you are trying to beat.

Lastly, focus on recovery.

It’s absolutely true that you recover slower as you age.

Putting emphasis on things like foam rolling, mobility work, quality nutrition, and walking – yes, walking – will help your body recover faster and prevent very avoidable aches and pains that will get in the way of living life to your fullest.

When you’re 20 you can get away with a lot. Your body will overcome almost anything.

When you’re pushing 50 or 60, you need to put in a bit more effort.

Consider a schedule such as

  • strength training 3 days a week for 30-45 mins (M-W-F or T-Th-Sat)

  • on the non-strength training days do a few minutes of mobility work

  • 1-2x/wk go for a hike with a friend

  • And every day go for a light walk, even if it’s just around the block

This is an hour a day maximum, and you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.

I hope that gives you a different perspective on what you’re capable of.

I hear lots of people say “I shouldn’t lift heavy” or “lifting heavy weights is dangerous” and if you hear the same I encourage your first question to be “what’s heavy mean to you?”.

Strength is relative. What is heavy for you is light for someone else, and vice versa.

And if you get a generic, cop-out answer like “anything above 20lbs” run for the hills.

Are they really trying to convince you that you won’t pick up a 21lb grandchild?

If you’re interested in getting stronger as you age, click here to book a call and see if our programs are right for you

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