Unfortunately, the older we get the more our bodies like to remind us of our age. Doing cartwheels in the garden seems like a distant memory for most once they hit 50.
With the growing trend of Zumba & Yoga it's encouraged a lot of us to get out there & have fun while we exercise which is an unrivaled activity when it comes to staying healthy. A lot of gyms & health clubs now even run classes by age group or ability.
Aside from feeling better in yourself, strength training in adults over 50 helps combat the natural functional decline that comes with ageing, which can lead to frailty, disability and falls.
We've picked up some tips from Rashelle Brown, certified personal trainer and health coach on 'How to gain strength and improve fitness in your 50s, 60s and beyond'.
It make sense to start slow
You want to be able to sit comfortably after your first workout so don't overdo it. Pick 4 or 5 exercises and do 1 or 2 sets using medium weight that you can list 10 or 12 times with good form.
Talking of good form
The quickest way to hurt yourself while working out is using bad form. Ideally for your first couple of workouts, you should hire a PT to show you how the correct form should look and feel to prevent you from hurting yourself.
The other thing to do is pay attention to your body. Even when using the perfect form, if you are lifting a weight that is too heavy or doing too many repetitions, you can still injure yourself. If you have a PT, they will be able to help you determine your starting weight & repetitions.
Pick the right exercises
You're a busy person, don't waste your time doing workouts that will have no benefit to you. Focus on the fundamental strength exercises like pushups, squats or lunges, deadlifts, rows & planks. Yikes, sounds daunting doesn't it. There will be ways to modify those exercises to suit you & build strength gradually, it'll be worth it!
Increase your weights & repetitions as you progress
With commitment & consistent training, you will see improvements but to keep seeing these improvements, you will need to gradually up the challenge.
Once you can do 2 or 3 sets of 15 reps with great form, it's time to add some weight for that particular exercise. A good guide would be to only increase the weight by 10% at a time or the next available weight up but make sure you drop the repetitions back down for when you've increased your weight. Only up the reps once you're comfortable with the new weight.
Give yourself time to recover
The physiological changes that make us stronger & add new muscle fibres happen during recovery, not while we workout. So recovery it vital! As we age, those physiological changes slow down so you might need an extra rest day each week (sounds good to me!)
At the very least you should be taking 1 day out between strength training for recovery. It's a great idea to do some cardio on those days but don't stress the muscles you've just worked. It's also wise to take an entire week off from strength training every 6-8 weeks to allow your body to recover completely. You should find you're stronger when you return to the gym!
Get the right nutrition
As with any exercise program, good nutrition is important for gaining strength & muscle. But because muscle gain is weight gain, and weight gain can't happen without a calorie surplus, you'll need to eat a few more calories than normal. Just be sure it's only a few, and they are high quality calories.
You'll likely benefit from adding a little more lean protein to your diet, especially if you're over 65. Even more important, though, is to focus on maximizing whole foods and reducing or eliminating processed, refined, empty-calorie foods.
An optimal diet for someone 50-plus who wants to gain a bit of muscle should include lots of fresh vegetables, legumes, whole grains and fruits. It might also include some lean animal protein too.
Consistency is key. It isn't a race so start slowly and progress smartly.