Today we will talk about weight training over 60 years old. Is it safe? Are there any benefits? Is it possible to build muscle in older people with weight training? Read on to find out.
For some reason many older people have the misconception that they can’t improve their physical fitness, health and performance in older age if they haven’t exercised actively all their adulthood.
This is simply wrong and potentially very harmful for your health and longevity. In short, it’s never too late to begin exercising and it’s always beneficial. Always. The only exception is if you have a serious medical condition that can exacerbate with exercise. This kind of conditions are rare however and exercising will prevent getting such conditions.
Many older people also seem to think that running and other high intensity aerobic exercise is the optimal form of exercise for overall health and since they can’t perform these activities anymore without pain and running out of breath, they think exercising at all is pointless for them.
Further more many older people, women especially, are afraid of weight training. They have a misconception that weight training is extremely hard, dangerous and will make you look like a meathead body builder. None of these arguments are true, of course.
Is weight training safe for older adults?
So do you have to avoid weight training because you are afraid you’ll get injured? The answer is a definite no. There is no need to stay away from weight training due to fear of injury. Weight training is one of the safest forms of exercise there is.
This is because there is an infinite amount of exercises and training styles to pick from. This makes it possible to design you workout plan completely based on your personal preferences, experience, strengths, weaknesses and possible injuries.
That said, strength training done in the wrong way has the potential to cause serious injury and even death. That’s why it’s extremely important to recognize your level of experience and ability when trying new forms of exercise.
A complete beginner to weight training can get safely started with gym machines even as a senior. On the other hand if you have never stepped inside a gym it’s probably safe to say you should avoid doing free weight exercises like squats and especially explosive barbell exercises like cleans and snatches until you have several months or years of weight training experience under your belt.
Weight training is actually very good for rehabilitating muscle and joint injuries as well as chronic lower back pain. Rehabilitating should always done under the supervision of a knowledgeable physiotherapist or a physician. Strength training can also protect you from injuries in case of falls and accidents because it makes your connective tissues and bones tougher and added muscle mass provides cushioning against impact.
Does weight training have benefits for older people?
So is weight training even beneficial for older people and is it somehow better than aerobic exercise? It is definitely beneficial for older people as shown by several studies like this one.
As we get older we suffer from something called sarcopenia, which essentially means muscle atrophy. This atrophy can lead to several negative health effects like decreased energy expenditure, increased body fat, reduced insulin sensitivity and fat metabolism.
Loss of muscle mass will naturally cause loss of strength which can affect life quality negatively by increasing the difficulty of performing daily tasks and moving around.
Weight training will slow down and in some cases even reverse sarcopenia. It can increase both muscle mass and muscle quality. Muscle quality means the amount of strength a muscle can produce relative to it’s size. This improvement in muscle quality happens due to neural adaptations and increased high-energy phosphate availability.
Weight training in older adults will also increase power output, makes performing tasks and moving around easier, improves body composition (reduces fat/increases muscle mass), improves insulin sensitivity, improves fat metabolism (reduces blood cholesterol), improves balance and bone health.
As you can see, the benefits of weight training are diverse and you should definitely include it in your exercise routine. But if you had to choose between only doing weight training and cardio, which should you do?
Our recommendation would be strength training because it offers most benefits of aerobic exercise with the added benefit of increased muscle mass and strength. It will improve your heart health as well, even though light to medium intensity longer duration cardio combined with weight training several times a week would be optimal for older adults.
Is it possible to build muscle after 60?
So is it even possible to build muscle after 60? Or does lifting weight make you look like a professional bodybuilder in few months?
The answers to those questions are a sound yes and a definite no. You can definitely build muscle after 60, especially if you have never done serious weight training before.
If you have and athletic background it’s possible you won’t build anymore muscle mass as an older adult because our ability to build muscle does decline as we get older. It doesn’t stop however, so it’s definitely possible to build muscle if you have been mostly sedentary or done mainly aerobic exercise.
Especially men who have done heavy manual labor their whole carreer can also have topped their natural muscle mass but this is very rare and weight training is still beneficial for maintaining the muscle mass you have.
If you fear of becoming a bulging bodybuilder, there is no need. This is only possible for genetically gifted young men and people using anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. Even then it takes years of hard work to build a bodybuilder physique.
Most older adults will notice their back widening a bit and arms and legs becoming a bit more defined but that’s about it. They way your muscles look is also highly dependent on your body fat percentage. The lower it is, the better your muscles will show.
A real bodybuilder has a combination of very high muscle mass and low body fat. It’s possible to have very high muscle mass and high fat percentage. This combination will not look like you have very defined muscles but it will make you look strong any powerful never the less. Strongman competitors are a good example of this.
But for most older adults these things are or at least should be meaningless. It’s natural to want to look good and healthy and that is definitely something you can achieve by exercising, building muscle and losing body fat. But the true benefit lies in the positive health effects and increased strength and performance that make your life much easier.
Weight training exercises for seniors
If you are interested in weight training we would suggest investing in a high quality proven program.
If you want to get started completely free, you can check out our free resources for weight training different muscle groups:
You can build a very effective routine depending on your level of experience with the exercises shown in those resources. The important part is to include exercises for all the muscle groups, as doing unvaried weight training will inevitably lead to muscle imbalances which can lead to injuries and postural problems.
So always include exercises for the pulling muscles of the upper body, the pushing muscles of the upper body, the core and the legs. Strengthening the core should be included in every workout.
If you are unsure how some exercises should be performed, consider hiring an experienced trainer. It’s always important to consult your physician when starting a new exercise program to rule out any medical contraindication.
We hope you enjoyed these tips for weight training over 60 years old and found our resources useful. If you have any questions about weight training, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section below. We promise to answer you to the best of our knowledge!
Strength and weight training is extremely beneficial and very safe for adults of all age. It doesn’t matter what kind of exercise background you have, it’s always possible to start weight training on a level suitable for your current health status.
There really isn’t a low or high limit in strength training, it’s only a matter of selecting the proper exercises and resistance. So get started today to become a stronger version of yourself tomorrow!
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See you next time!