Weight training has been shown to improve daily life activities and for sports and recreation.
And, the good news is that you can start exercising at any age!
Most people mistakenly assume that doing cardio like running or cycling is dong resistance exercise, or strength training, but it is not. Running and cycling are effective in improving your cardiovascular (heart) and cardiorespiratory (lungs) system, but not for strengthening your muscles, tendons, and bones.
As we age we begin to lose muscle, which is a natural part of aging. After the age of 30, we will begin to lose as much as 3-5% per decade. Most men will lose about 30% of their muscle mass during their lifetime. The good news is that we have the ability to dramatically slow down the muscle loss process and even build muscle as we age.
Weight training is using resistance in the form of free weights, exercise machines, or even elastic tubing to challenge movements of your body – thus, applying resistance against your muscles. Your muscles, tendons, and bones respond by getting stronger each time you do bouts of resistance exercise consistently over time.
How you build strength through weight training is by lifting weights in a progressive manner. That is, you gradually lift more weight for any given exercise each week or so. And, you don’t need to go super heavy either. As long as you are progressing the weight bit by bit every week or so you will gradually get stronger.
As far as sets and repetitions, most beginners can do 1-3 sets of between 8-15 repetitions per exercise. Intermediates (defined by most as six months or more of weight training) will build up to 4-6 sets of between 6-12 reps.
What exercises should you do?
There are a vast number of exercises that can be done per body part. So, what is recommended is to do at least one exercise for each of our primary movement patterns. Our primary movement patterns are to push, pull, squat, lunge, twist, and lift & carry. Listed below is an example of some basic exercises you can do for each movement pattern.
Push: Push-ups, bench press, inclined press, shoulder press (dumbbells, barbell, or machine)
Pull: Chin-ups, cable pulldowns, rows (bar, dumbbells, machine)
Squat: Body weight or barbell squats, leg press machine
Lunge: Stationary lunge in place, front-step lunge, walking lunges
Twist: Seated medball twist, cable rotation twist, cable/tubing woodchop
Lift: Deadlift using barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells
Remember, you only have one body and it gets a lot of use over the years. You must strengthen and condition your body so that you can build and keep your muscle mass. As we age into our 50s and beyond, it is our strength that can help prevent and protect us from falling off balance. It keeps us agile and with the ability to handle daily life activities, and to keep going with sports, recreation, and play.