I have worked out at a gym or watched exercise videos at home most of my life. What I have NOT done consistently, until lately, is a weight lifting routine. Oh, I’ve done what I would call “strength training” and convinced myself that using my own body weight when I exercised was all I needed – or maybe used the occasional two to three pound weight. I bought into the idea that lifting weights would cause me to bulk up, making my fat arms look even worse.
I was wrong, wrong, wrong!
First, there is bone density (which is already a problem for me). According to Dr. Henry S. Lodge (Read: Younger Next Year for Women), a weight lifting routine is the single most important thing you can do to resist the horror of crippling falls, disfiguring bone misalignment and the like – not consuming more dairy or taking calcium supplements (though they can help).
Keeping your bones strong is only party of it. Muscle mass goes too. (See Why Good Nutrition Looks Different After 50) It makes you weak. We lose muscle cells as we age; that’s one of the things you cannot change. But you can beef up the surviving cells—which have tremendous redundant capacity—to offset much of that loss.
Strengthening the muscles surrounding the bones makes our whole skeletal system work as it should. Our muscles atrophy. They let go without notice. And the pads between the bones dry out and we start making little crunching sounds when we move. And we hurt. According to Dr. Lodge, lifting big, heavy weights stops most of that.
“Aerobic exercise does more to stop actual death—by heart attack and lots of cancers—but strength training can make your life worthwhile.”
Finding a good trainer is key. They are expensive, but worth it, especially to get you started using proper form. I’ve used several different trainers in the past, some were good and some not. You can determine that pretty quickly. Don’t hesitate to find a new one if need be.
As Chris Crowley (co-author of Younger Next Year for Women) says, “Do not make the mistake of hiring some person who just talks to you. Or listens. The gyms are full of women, in particular, who pay big bucks to have trainers chat with them and occasionally hand them a light weight. If you want to fool around under the guise of exercise, play golf. If you’re going to do weights, do weights. It is not supposed to be restful.”
Do take it easy in the first few months. Start with less weight than you can handle and do more reps, your joints need time to become accustomed to lifting weights. A good trainer will monitor you carefully and respond quickly if you complain. Be extra careful with rotator cuffs. They can be a problem for a lot of women. Also, a good trainer will mix it up so you don’t become bored.
I can say after only three months of one hour training sessions, twice a week, I’ve seen more positive changes in my body than anything else I’ve done, especially in getting rid of that above the waist fat roll that seems to plague most women over 60. If you have any health issues, please consult your doctor first. Then get out there and lift some weights!
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