Resistance Training for Older Adults: Part 2

Following up on our blog from April, here is some more information about resistance training for older adults including some common misconceptions about lifting weights, as well as recommendations to get you started.

Common Misconceptions

Many people have misconceptions about weight lifting. Here are some of the most common assumptions.

  1. Heavy lifting is not safe
  • Multiple high quality studies (in references below) have demonstrated that not only is high intensity resistance training safe for people in their 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, it is the most effective way to build strength and maintain bone density.  If you are a novice lifter, starting with heavy lifting is not safe. Just like anyone, you need to start easy and build slowly.

2. I’m too old to lift weights

  • Maintaining strength may be more important as you age than it was when you were younger. As your risk of injury and disease increase, maintaining strength is an extremely effective way to stay out of the doctor’s (and PT’s) office and reduce your risk for joint replacements, low back pain, and broken bones.

3. Squatting is bad for my knees

  • Poor quad strength is bad for your knees, and can lead to reduced functional capacity. Squatting can improve your quad strength and reduce the risk of needing surgery or treatment by a physical therapist for knee pain or injury.
  • In a review of over 2000 adults ages 60-80 years old, quadriceps strength was significantly correlated to knee pain, independent of x-ray findings. This shows that regardless of the degree of arthritis, people with stronger legs have less knee pain.
  • If you already have significant knee pain, consult your doctor or physical therapist before starting this type of strength training.

Exercise Recommendations

The American College of Sports Medicine, American Heart Association, and American Diabetes Association all recommend resistance training at least twice per week. While this post has focused on resistance training, it is also important to maintain your cardiovascular fitness. These organizations also recommend moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise at least 150 minutes per week.

So now that we have covered some benefits of strength training, how do you begin? If you are unsure how to start, a safe option is to consult a personal trainer, strength coach, or physical therapist. In next month’s blog we will discuss how to begin, as well as exercises, volume, intensity and progressions! For now, to get started at home, one of the best things you can start to do is a squat to and from a chair. It sounds simple, but try sitting and standing slowly from a chair without using your hands 20-40 times per day. Try to keep equal weight on both legs, stand all the way upright, and come down softly! If you do this, you’ll be ready to up the intensity by next month.

Other Resources

American College of Sports Medicine – Exercise Guidelines As We Get Older:

https://www.exerciseismedicine.org/assets/page_documents/EIM_Rx%20for%20Health_Being%20Active%20as%20We%20Get%20Older.pdf 

 

American Heart Association – Exercise Recommendations:

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults

 

American Diabetes Association – Exercise Recommendations:

https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/39/11/2065