Weightlifting Strengthens Older Bodies

Weightlifting for people over sixty is not about body building competition. It is about regaining and maintaining muscle strength and bone density. As we age, we gradually lose lean muscle mass and bone density. This process can be reversed by resistant exercise. Almost immediate results can be seen and felt in as little as three 20 minute sessions a week.

Benefits of Weightlifting Among the many benefits of this type of exercise are sleeping better and just plain feeling good. Here are some others:

  • By building strength you reduce your risk of injury in falls or other accidents.
  • Increased bone mass and density can help protect against osteoporosis.
  • Improvement in strength and physique also improves self esteem because of the improvement in appearance.
  • Reduces resting blood pressure
  • A continuous strength building routine will reduce lower body fat.
  • By increasing back strength it can reduce lower back pain
  • Reduces the pain of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis.
  • It can help reduce the symptoms of heart disease, type 2 diabetes , and depression.

Besides these proven benefits there is the overall good feeling that comes from actively taking charge of your health and wellness.

Getting Started
...There are dozens of ways and sources for information on starting a weightlifting program. I am going to give you a brief and simple introduction as well as some examples of my personal program. I have a minimal program and I use nothing but 20 and 30 pound dumbbells. I must say that I really like good exercise machines but living in a motor home precludes that luxury.

  1. Select the right weight. For starting out you really only need two dumbbells of the same weight. Pick one and do this test. Grip one bell with either hand and let it hang at your side. Now see how many curls you can do. Bring the bell up to your shoulder. If you cannot do this at least eight times it is too heavy. If you can do it more than 12 or 13 times it is too light.
  2. Choose 3 or 4 different exercises. I use these three:

    First is the aforementioned curl. You can do this with both arms at a time or first one and then the other. This exercise strengthens the bones and muscles in the wrists, forearms, upper arms, shoulders and upper chest.

    Second is the squat. With the bells hanging at your sides and your back straight, slowly bend your knees to bring your buttocks as close to your ankles as possible. This will be painful the first few times and you may not be able to get very low. This will improve with time. This exercise works everything from the hips to the feet and really reduces a lot of morning stiffness. Also good for the buns.

    Third is the triceps extension. Grip the bell by one end with both hands and hold it over your head. Slowly lower it behind you head until your hands are between you shoulder blades. This strengthens the triceps and shoulders and reduces neck and shoulder stiffness

  3. Repetitions...The number of repetitions is determined by how many times you can do the exercise before 'failure' or the inability to do just one more. Set your rep goal at one or two before failure. You can increase it as you gain strength.
  4. Sets...Three or four sets is about right for each exercise. One set is repeating the exercise to your rep goal. Most trainers recommend doing all the sets of one particular exercise before moving on. This concentrates your efforts to one muscle goup. Be sure to rest a minute or two between sets.

This is a brief description of a basic weightlifting plan. It is quite minimal but it is what I do three times a week. I never do it two days in a row. You can work out every day if you concentrate on different muscle groups. Muscles need a day of rest between workouts.

Anyone can benefit from a good weightlifting program. Men and women in their nineties have shown increased strength and bone and muscle mass after a few months of these exercises.

Once you start a weightlifting program, you will want to keep at it because of the positive results. Keep in mind that muscles and bones start to atrophy after about two weeks of inactivity.

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