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Weightlifting for seniors

Fitness | Sep 24, 2015



Weightlifting isn't a sport only suitable for energetic young adults and dedicated bodybuilders. Just ask Sandee Tarjanyi, who lives and works out in Sylvania, Ohio. In an interview with Toledo, Ohio's, The Blade, the 57 year old said she can deadlift 100 pounds and she's not the only senior to turn toward weightlifting for exercise. According to The Blade, numerous seniors are adopting these Olympic lifting techniques into their exercise regimen because of the health benefits. Another senior, Willie Murphy, was profiled by USA Today. The 77 year old Murphy took up weightlifting after a gym employee sarcastically told her to lift weights.

However, before you head to the nearest gym, read up on the various exercises and proper lifting techniques. These lifts don't utilize lightweight dumbbells. If you want to burn calories and develop lean muscle, you'll want to incorporate Olympic lifts with an intention of utilizing weights that are much heavier.

"Strength training provides many benefits for senior men and women."

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Benefits of weightlifting
Right off the bat, lifting weights is one of the best low-impact exercises for seniors. Your knees and legs aren't pounding on the pavement or treadmill. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, strength training provides many benefits for senior men and women. Even those who are currently diagnosed with arthritis or diabetes will reap the positive aspects of weightlifting.

According to a study conducted by Tufts University, seniors with moderate to severe knee osteoarthritis embarked upon a 16 week weightlifting program. At its conclusion, the program reduced pain by 43 percent while increasing muscular strength and other muscle areas. For instance, a consistent weight lifting program will help increase bone density. The stronger your bones, the less likely you'll have serious side-effects if you were to fall.

How to get started
Before heading to the gym, you'll want to figure out why you want to start lifting weights. Ask yourself if you'll be starting a program to help your fitness levels, or if you're looking to spend some of your free time being productive.

You'll then want to find a local gym. Shop around for the best monthly or yearly deal. Now it's time to develop a plan. For optimal results, adhere strictly to this program, as any deviation may result in fatigued muscles or potential injury, especially if you start too fast.

"A consistent weight lifting program will help increase bone density."

Some example lifts may include:

  • Bench press
  • Squat
  • Deadlift
  • Leg press

According to the CDC, focus your efforts on repetitions. This means your lifts should be done to the point where the next rep becomes a little more difficult for you to complete. Aim for about eight reps per set. Start off slow with your lifts and over time, work your way to heavier weights, more reps and sets. It's important to start light because shocking your body may lead to injury. At most you'll want to complete three sets per lift. If at any point you need help, reach out to the gym's staff. You may even want to inquire about a personal trainer who can teach you and develop a weightlifting plan that will target your entire body.

Other considerations
Weightlifting is only one part of the health lifestyle puzzle. You will also need to maintain a good diet and get a good night's sleep, avoid extreme amounts of alcohol and also include a few cardio days.

You also don't have to go to the gym every day to see or feel the results. At minimum, strive to hit the weights three times a week, and combined with the other aspects of a healthy retirement, you'll feel better than ever and you may even surprise your grandkids with just how strong you really are.