Healthy Ageing: The Importance of Weight Training

By Matthew McArdle, Associate Trainer for WAW, Physiotherapist and Advanced Personal Trainer.

In most gym environments, in my experience, the age profile tends to be on the younger side.  As we get older our exercise habits tend to change and we see the older population doing less bench pressing and squatting and spending more time on the X trainer and the golf course.

That would seem the natural thing to do, wouldn’t it?

Because as we get older we lose our muscle mass and our strength, don’t we?

It’s known as sarcopenia.

Sarcopenia is the age-related progressive loss of muscle mass and strength. The main symptom of the condition is muscle weakness. Sarcopenia is a type of muscle atrophy primarily caused by the natural aging process”.

But that’s not the whole story…thankfully.

Healthy Ageing and Weight Training

Whilst the ageing process cannot be completely stopped, it can most certainly be slowed through being mindful of healthy ageing. In the gym where my practice is based, we have a group in twice a week called “The Strong Medicine Club”. The members are all retired. They are all over 60 and many of them are in their 70’s. Another thing they have in common is that, until they joined the club, none of them had lifted any weights.

Weight lifting

Many of my Personal Training clients are older. When I tell these clients that we are going to lift weights, and heavy weights at that, they are horrified. However, once they’ve been doing it a few weeks, they can’t believe they have never done it before!

Weight lifting

A Personal Story on Weight Training

My dad celebrated his 77th birthday a couple of weeks ago. I rang him to say happy birthday and was going to pop over and see him but he was at the gym. He was busy doing what he’s done most days for the last 50 years plus…lifting weights and staying strong. He’s as fit as a fiddle and strong with it. My dad is additional evidence to support the theory that staying strong is essential to maintaining quality of life and the healthy ageing process. All evidence, both clinical and anecdotal, tells us that to maintain function as we get older, we need to remain strong. In order to do this, we need to take part in strength training. Not just strength training, strength training with a progressive overload.

How do I get started with Weight Training?

Many of you are probably thinking… how do I start if I don’t currently do any strength training?

Simple, like you would with any new skill, by learning the basics…

Learn how to do a bodyweight squat and then add resistance.

  • Learn how to do a simple deadlift and then gradually add resistance.
  • Start with a press up against a wall and progress it and learn to bench press.

If there are no classes near you, get in touch with a personal trainer and get them to teach you. Most gyms will make sure you can train safely and that includes learning the basic lifts. Then get yourself in the gym and get strong because it will ensure your quality of life is maintained well into old age.

You know what they say…You can’t go wrong by getting strong!

Nervous about getting into the gym? Why not read our blog on gym anxiety and get some top tips on getting into the gym with confidence!

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