Have you noticed a change in your strength and muscle mass as you’ve got older? Well according to the American College of Sports Medicine, muscle loss happens gradually and you may not even notice it when it first occurs. When you reach your late sixties, however, sarcopenia tends to accelerate and you will start feeling weaker, unable to engage in physical activities you were accustomed to. By the age of 50, around 50% of muscle in the cross-sectional area has disappeared with the rate of loss increasing rapidly after that age.
The good news is, you are able to develop your strength and gain muscle later in life, even in your 70’s. Following a balanced diet and engaging in regular exercise can help you stay independent and active while at the same time ensuring that your daily activities like trips to the grocery store or playing with your grandchildren become easier to perform. Weight training can also help to ease some common aging-related conditions such as depression, weight gain and stiff joints and muscles.
Guidelines to follow when embarking on a weight training routine
- Always speak to your doctor before commencing with a new exercise program. A medical consultation will help you establish the correct amount of exercise that is suitable to your health and fitness levels. You need to inform your doctor about all the medication you are taking together with any medical conditions you have.
- Remember to warm up at the start of any workout session with at least 5 to 10 minutes of light to moderate cardio such as brisk walking or jumping on a stationary cycle or elliptical trainer. You have to ease into your new exercise program slowly. Don’t expect to be able to deadlift 50 pounds on your first day as it can cause serious injuries to especially an aging body. Start out easy and increase the intensity of your workouts every 14 days or so with steady increases to heavier resistance levels and weights. You can, for example, start with basic exercises such as chair-assisted squats and slowly start incorporating weights into your routine until you are at a comfort and fitness level to start lifting properly.
- Aim to complete at least two full-body strength training sessions per week, allowing 48 hours rest between the sessions to allow your muscles to recover. It is during these recovery periods that you will build the most lean muscle mass. Mix up your training session by including free weights, cable pulleys, machines, medicine balls and dead-lifting into your routine. If you use resistance bands for your bicep curls during one training session you can, for example, use free weights the next. Keep your effort constant but change the exercises up to prevent you both from getting bored as well as from reaching a dreaded plateau.
- Developing a proper breathing pattern while lifting is of utmost importance. Holding your breath while you lift weights can have an adverse effect on your health such as raising your blood pressure. Avoid dropping and jerking weights as you lift; lift to the count of 3, hold for 1 count and slowly return to the starting position for another 3 counts.
- Always stretch for between 10 and 15 minutes at the end of your training session. Stretching doesn’t only help to elongate the muscles but is vital for the recovery process as well. While stretching make sure to target every muscle group that was worked during a particular session, holding each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. Make an effort to breathe in through your nose for 5 counts before slowly exhaling through your mouth for the same amount of counts.
Regardless of whether you have never exercised before or have simply lost your way over the years, you really are never too old to get on track. Before you engage on a lifestyle change make sure to adjust your mindset as well. By letting go of any negative beliefs you may have about exercise and opening your mind to becoming strong and fit your body will soon follow suit.