Weight Training for Older Adults

Weight Training for Older Adults

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Weight training can prevent fractures and protect joints.

Barry Austin/Digital Vision/Getty Images

As you age, it's likely you'll lose some bone and muscle mass and even mobility. But you don't have to sit passively, allowing it to happen. You can fight the effects of aging through exercises such as weight training. Though lifting weights may sound intimidating, these exercises will strengthen your body and self-confidence. With a few sessions each week and with the approval of a healthcare professional, you can live a healthier, stronger life.

Prevents Falls and Fractures

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year, post-menopausal women lose up to 2 percent of their bone mass. This puts seniors at risk of bone fractures if they fall. Weight training can offset this in two ways: resistance training restores balance and prevents falls -- and weight training increases bone mass. The stress from the weights place enough load on the skeletal system to form new bone. To see best results, older adults must lift heavy enough weights that allow you to complete six to 11 reps before your muscle fatigues, according to the National Association of Sports Medicine. It may take up to six months before you see results.

Maintain Muscle Mass

As your body ages, it naturally loses muscle mass. Moreover, after the age of 50, that amount of muscle mass loss accelerates, according the National Strength and Conditioning Association. This contributes to weight gain because muscle burns more calories than other body tissues. Strength training promotes weight maintenance by slowing down muscle loss and burning calories during training.

Keeps Joints Healthy

When performed properly, strength training improves range of motion of the joints. These types of exercises also protect the joints by building strong muscles. The more muscle mass you have, the more protection and support your joints have, according to the Mayo Clinic. A word of caution: If you have joint pain or swelling, take a day off from strength training. The Mayo Clinic suggests resistance training every other day for joint health.

Guidelines for Training

Seniors should consult a personal trainer who can exhibit proper exercise technique. A personal trainer can also serve as a spotter to prevent injury. If you have no experience with weight training, start off with weight machines, recommends the American College of Sports Medicine. You can move up to free weights such as dumbbells when your comfort and skill level increase. Examples of free weight exercises include bicep curls and dumbbell squats. These exercises can also help build strength for everyday living activities such as sitting down, standing up and lifting grocery bags. For the best training results, the ACSM also suggests performing up to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions per exercise. You should also train at least two days but no more than four days. Be sure to wait at least 48 hours between sessions to support muscle growth and recovery.