The dos and dont’s of lifting weights if you’re older

If you’re to believe what you see on Instagram, only the young and super fit lift weights. This, unfortunately, may deter older people from strength training, which isn’t great news – particularly in light of new research.

A study published in the British Journal of General Practice by scientists from University College Dublin found: “A combination of muscle strength training and protein supplementation was the most effective intervention to delay or reverse frailty.”

According to the NHS, frailty is related to the ageing process and is when our bodies decline – for example, when we become more vulnerable to small health problems like minor infections. The NHS says people living with severe frailty have over a four times greater annual risk for future hospitalisation, care home admission or death. Age UK says that around 10% of over 65s are frail, and it increases to 65% for those over 90.

So this study recommends weightlifting and protein supplements to delay or reverse the effects that often come with ageing. If you’re a newbie to muscle strength training and a bit older than the average Instagram influencer, here are the dos and dont’s of what you should be doing in the gym – according to strength and conditioning coach at Pure Sports Medicine, Cameron Lane.

Do: Prepare properly

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AGE IS JUST A NUMBER‼️Not my best look but giving it my all here ‍♀️ . Many women think that lifting weights will make them muscular & “bulky” like men. Unfortunately (& yes I mean that) women don’t produce as much testosterone, a hormone that drives muscle growth, as men. But….strength training can have many health benefits both physical & mental. I am reading more & more that this type of exercise can actually REVERSE some of the signs of ageing & are no longer considered inevitable …for example: – Lifting weights can reverse sarcopenia or muscle loss (which starts after 30 btw) Strengthen bones & help avoid osteoporosis Improve self esteem by feeling stronger & more confident If you want to lose weight it’s not all about cardio…lean muscle mass will increase your metabolism & you will burn more calories – Some health predictors will be down to our genetics, lifestyle & environment but those bits I can be responsible for my health I want to do. So if you’re interested but think maybe you’re too late I would say it could be just the beginning Happy Sunday all . . . . . #fitnessmotivation #healthbenefits #fitlife #fitover40 #fitover50 #womensupportwomen #healthtips #ageisjustanumber #strengthtraining #agewell #healthchoices

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“Strength training should be prescribed and supervised by a suitable qualified and experienced coach, trainer or instructor,” Lane explains.

Making sure you know what you’re doing and your body is ready to start strength training is key before you start lifting weights. Lane also recommends those with prior health issues, like high blood pressure, undergo a medical screening beforehand. The more prepared you are for weightlifting, the less likely you are to injure yourself.

Don’t: Jump around too much

Lane warns against “repeated high intensity jumping and landing exercises”. The older you are, the more careful you have to be with your body, so you have to evaluate with each exercise whether it is pushing you too hard.

“An appropriate level of high intensity jumping and landing has been shown to have a positive influence on bone related health issues such as osteoporosis, however, too much can possibly lead to injury,” Lane says.

Do: Start at the bottom

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This client is such a hard worker. She has goals and she goes for it. ❤️ She started this past March, and the changes have been incredible. She went from, using her hands to help her up from a seated position to squatting 95 Lbs!! She went from having a back that was rounded to a beautiful engaged back while she excercises and in life. She has lots of energy, wakes up before her alarm, for her early morning workouts. She feels strong. Her body composition has changed. Her nephew who’s in his twenties commented on how cool she is! Yup The weight room changes your life one step at a time. ️ Happy Friday people. #fitnessover60 #backworkout #steadygains #findyourinnerstrenght #ıfnotnowthenwhen #feelbetter #strong #strongisforeveryone #changeyourlife #nicolethornefitness

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This really applies to anyone lifting weights first the first time – don’t go too heavy and hard immediately, because you could injure yourself, and this risk is greater for the elderly.

“Training should have an appropriate starting level,” says Lane. “Exercises should be selected based on a systematic progression.” This could mean upgrading from stable to unstable movements, or from static to dynamic exercises. Start small, then you can build your way up as you become more comfortable and confident.

Don’t: Stay at the same level

It’s important not to get into a lifting rut, because if your training plateaus, you’re unlikely to see much of a benefit to your body. Whether this is upgrading the movements as explained above or increasing the weight you’re lifting, you should be constantly making things harder for yourself.

“To continue seeing improvements from exercise, the sessions and exercises must gradually become more challenging once the client has achieved an appropriate level of competency,” Lane says.

Do: Include balance training

For older people, Lane recommends supplementing strength training with balance-based exercises. “There is large evidence that shows balance training reduces the risk of falls in the elderly population,” he explains.

This could be as simple as balancing on one leg, or even standing on the bosu (that flat rubber ball you might recognise from the gym). Balance training is also suitable for the elderly because it’s not high impact or intensity – all you have to do is move slowly and methodically, focusing on your core.

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