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Begun Lifting at the age of 60. Now 91, Ariz has broken the bench press for his division with a 187.2 pounds lift.

In 2016, just 15% of the UK’s population aged 55 and above met the UK’s 2011 benchmarks according to the guidelines for aerobic and muscle training activity.  Indicating that older age groups prefer different forms of exercise than resistance training. What makes these groups refrain from resistance training and is it even beneficial for older individuals to begin with?

In this article, we will discuss if resistance training is indeed beneficial for individuals aged 55 and over. Additionally, we will outline some of the benefits of performing this kind of activity at an older age and key training tips to keep in mind while doing resistance exercises.

Resistance training includes any movements that involve you working against some level of force, hence its name. This consists of any bodyweight movement or movement using additional weight, such as a dumbbell or a cable machine.

While resistance training is indeed a popular mode of exercise in the UK, it is less of a preference for people above 55. A significant reason why older individuals refrain from resistance training is that they simply do not believe that they could cope with its physical demands.

In a large study conducted at the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland (Reynolds, 2019), scientists attempted to determine the effects of resistance training on the mental health and musculature of older individuals. The participants of the study were healthy and active men and women between the ages of 65 and 75 who do not perform any resistance training. The scientists supervised a minimum of two resistance training sessions per week for 6 months and continuously measured the participants’ health indicators. By the end of the 6 month period, almost all participants had gained strength and improved various health markers. Additionally, the study participants experienced an apparent change of preferences. After their first-hand experience in performing resistance training, all participants registered at their local gyms to continue their training. A year after the survey, almost half of the study’s participants continued to perform resistance training at the gym. This result indicates that not performing resistance training at an older age is an issue of perception rather than physical limitations. This brings us to the question of why should older people get into resistance training? And what are the potential benefits to be had by doing so?

Starting from the age of 40, muscle loss occurs at a rate of 5% every decade. The best way to reverse this effect is to continue to perform resistance training to counteract this muscle loss. For this reason, The American College of Sports Medicine (Woolston, 2020) recommends resistance training for all people above the age of 50. One of the most significant benefits of resistance training at an older age is improved functional strength. Resistance training helps to significantly increase your strength and improve your overall balance & agility. As a result, your physical endurance and functionality will improve, helping you remain capable and independent at an older age. This was further demonstrated through a study by the University of Vermont, USA (Woolston, 2020). The study included a group of seniors between the ages of 65 to 79 engaging in resistance training for 12 weeks. At the end of this study, the participants saw an impressive 40% increase in walking endurance.

Mentally, resistance training contributes to a considerable reduction in depressive symptoms and improves the self-perception of physical wellbeing, body satisfaction, and self-esteem. Therefore, the benefits of resistance training at an older age cannot be understated. Given this conclusion, we will look into some essential tips to assist the older generations when performing resistance training to minimize risks and optimize results.

The first thing to keep in mind is how you approach resistance training. It is imperative to start slowly and get a good 48 hours of rest before repeating the same movement. The best start to any resistance training regimen is through bodyweight multi-jointed movements. Multi-jointed exercises or compound exercises are movements that engage more than one muscle group and more than one joint. Examples of these movements include the partial squat, assisted lunges, push-ups (start gradually against the wall, then on your knees, slowly moving to a full push-up), shoulder press, step-ups, and bicycle crunches amongst others. Devise a program of two thirty minutes sessions a week to focus on what you like to do. For example, if you prefer hiking as a hobby, focus on lower body exercises to improve your leg strength and endurance. Throughout the program, you need to make sure to get a full 10 minutes of warm-up and another 10 minutes of warm down before and after every training. Additionally, you should make sure you maintain an upright posture and perform the movements in a slow to moderate and deliberate manner. As you continue to progress physically & mentally, add further complexity to your training program, and pay close attention to your nutrition.

For a long time, the perception of resistance training as unsuitable for older people due to physical limitations has been the common trend in society. This is evident in the fact that only 15% of individuals aged 55 and above meet the UK’s 2011 guidelines for aerobic and muscle training activity benchmarks. However, this perception is far from reality. Resistance training has been proven time and again to be hugely beneficial to the mental and physical wellbeing of people above the age of 55. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends resistance training to all people above the age of 50. It is essential to follow advice offered by experts and organizations regarding the subject matter to reap benefits from your resistance training. The National Health Services (NHS) of the UK offers comprehensive guidelines for physical activities for older adults and should be the first source of information regarding this topic and all of your health and wellness information needs.

Here at FitQuid, we strive to motivate our community to live a healthy lifestyle. Performing resistance training and any other form of exercise should always be geared towards one goal only. That is to improve your quality of life and become a happier and more vibrant contributor to society.

Mahdi Almubarak

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