Starting a strength training regime may be intimidating when you are in your 50s, 60s, or older, but the benefits outweigh the concern. Working out regularly with weights can rebuild muscle lost to sarcopenia, help fight cancer and other chronic health conditions, improve your balance, and help you stay independent. Research shows that strength training has an almost immediate effect on muscle growth and you can see results within a month.
Don’t be afraid to pick up those weights, just be smart about it. Your path to the StrongPath begins here:
Step 1: Determine your fitness level before you begin lifting weights.
It’s important to find a workout that matches your current fitness level, so check with your doctor before you start lifting weights. Even chronic conditions such as heart disease, arthritis, or diabetes shouldn’t keep you from strength training. You can start slowly and adapt exercises as you gain strength. Do a Functional Movement Screen on your own using our resources and video page to guide you or have someone qualified do one for you at a local gym.
Step 2: Set your goals to stay motivated.
What do you want from a workout program? Are you looking to get healthier, build your stamina, look better, decrease stress, or continue to live an independent life as you get older? These are all great goals. Write down the ones that resonate with you. Get yourself motivated for this transformative journey.
Step 3: Gear up.
You don’t really need that much to get started. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that if you’re in your 50s and haven’t been exercising, that you start with exercises that use your own body weight as resistance. You’ll need a sturdy chair or some of them. If you’re using dumbbells, make sure you don’t get them any heavier than recommended by your doctor. You call always buy heavier ones later. Also, make sure you have a good, supportive pair of athletic shoes with a thin rubber sole (a thinner sole helps prevent tripping).
Step 4: Create a workout schedule.
You should strength train three times a week with at least one rest day in between each session to allow your muscles to recover and grow. Maybe a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule works for you. Maybe it’s Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. You decide. Also, figure out if the morning or evening works best with the rest of your schedule. Block out about 60 minutes on your calendar, to allow for travel if you’re heading out to the gym. Another thing to consider is scheduling time with a personal trainer at a gym if you are new to working out. He or she can work with you at your pace and make sure you are doing the exercises correctly.
Step 5: Get lifting!
You’ve done all the prep work. Your doctor says you can strength train. You’ve set your goals and schedule. You’ve got your gear. Now start building your muscle. A good workout begins with warming up your muscles before moving into the strength training exercises. We like the CDC’s workout guide Growing Stronger: Strength Training for Older Adults. There’s a complete list of all the exercises you need to start a safe resistance training program at any age, one that will help you achieve all your health and strength goals.
There’s also more expert advice on beginning a strength training program in Choosing the StrongPath by Strongpath.com founder Fred Bartlit. Fred started his own strength training journey in his late 50s. He’s now 86 and says he’s stronger than he was in his 20s when he was an Army Ranger. He knows the important role strength training plays as you age, and his book features the latest medical research on the subject, as well as a guide to getting the most out of your workout.