Resistance Training: Not Just a Young Man's Game
The idea of a 70-year-old doing a front squat generally seems like an oxymoronic image. It is commonly thought that as we age we should accept frailty as our new way of life and cease all rigorous activity, especially the act of resistance, or strength, training. But lifting heavy things intelligently should not simply be a part of a young person’s workout routine. By continuing resistance training throughout our entire lives, we can improve our bodies’ ability to function, help our mental health, and extend the amount of time that we can live independently.
The most obvious way that resistance training benefits us as we age is by strengthening our muscles. According to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, after 60, the loss of muscle mass, or sarcopenia, accelerates and bouncing back from even minor injuries becomes more difficult (2019). However, when resistance training is introduced into someone’s routine, muscle mass can be maintained or built upon allowing an individual to stay more active within their life. Mistakenly, active adults focus on aerobic, low intensity workouts. By emphasizing resistance training at appropriate intensities, you can optimize health and wellness (Fragala et al 2021). People who have resistance training as a consistent component of their lives have seen a decrease in falls, an increase in strength and ability, and ultimately stronger adults are able to live independently for longer (Boyle).
The impact of resistance training in our lives doesn’t stop there though. Resistance training not only strengthens our bodies, but also improves our mental health. Multiple studies have shown a decrease in depressive thoughts, anxiety, and overall tension when resistance training is introduced into the lives of an older population (Fragala et al. 2030). If resistance training not only strengthens our bodies, but also our minds, why would we allow ourselves to be told that we can’t do it anymore - or, that it is too late to start? Wouldn’t we want to do everything we can to make resistance training stay in our lives and not be something of our younger past?
However, a 70-year-old with joint and back pain shouldn’t just buy a gym membership, pick up a bar, and start squatting. It takes planning and individualized training to do these things correctly. As we age, certain physical conditions are unavoidable depending on diseases, previous injuries, and genetics. You already know the benefit of having a personal trainer to look at what you are doing and help fix any habits or adapt an exercise for you specifically. The older we get, the more imperative this individualization is to ensure that we are training safely and effectively. With expert instruction, anyone can and should continue resistance training and reap its rewards.
Fragala, Maren S et al. “Resistance Training for Older Adults: Position Statement From the National Strength and Conditioning Association”. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. nsca.com/contentassets/2a4112fb355a4a48853bbafbe070fb8e/resistance_training_for_older_adults__position.1.pdf.
Stare, Michael. “Is Strength and Muscle Loss Reversible in Older Adults?”. Michael Boyle’s Strength Coach. October 28, 2011. https://strengthcoachblog.com/tag/aging/