Gail Powers

IS WEIGHT TRAINING FOR THE 50+?

WE THE YOUNG OLD, DEFINED BY SOCIOLOGISTS AS 50 – 70, CAN REAP A LOT OF BENEFIT FROM WEIGHT TRAINING.  AS WE GROW OLDER STRENGTH ALLOWS US TO STAY MOBILE.  EVEN TRAINING OF MODERATE INTENSITY REDUCES LOSS OF MUSCLE MASS AND THE ENSUING LOSS OF MOTOR FUNCTION.  LIKEWISE MAINTAINING OR INCREASING MUSCLE MASS LEADS TO INCREASED STRENGTH, BETTER MUSCLE RECRUITMENT AND FIRING OR ACTIVATION.

 HOW HARD DOES ONE HAVE TO TRAIN TO GET THESE BENEFITS?  MUSCLE MASS INCREASES THROUGH TRAINING AT AN INTENSITY OF 60% TO 85% OF A PERSON’S MAXIMUM STRENGTH.  YOU DON’T HAVE TO STRAIN EVERY NERVE AND MUSCLE FIBRE IN EVERY SESSION.  YOUR MUSCLES WILL RESPOND TO A MODESTLY ENERGETIC EFFORT BUT DO NOT REQUIRE MAXIMAL EFFORT LEADING TO TOTAL EXHAUSTION TO SEE CHANGE.  GUIDANCE THROUGH THIS PROCESS, EXPLAINING WHAT YOU SHOULD FEEL AND THE MECHANICS OF CORRECT AND SAFE FORM IS CRITICAL.
IT’S NOW RECOMMENDED THAT HEALTHY OLDER PEOPLE TRAIN 3 OR 4 TIMES WEEKLY TO SEE RESULTS.  EVEN THOSE WHO STRUGGLE WITH MUSCULAR CONTROL AND RECRUITMENT WHEN THEY START TRAINING WILL SEE IMPROVEMENT WORKING OUT LESS.
I HAVE WORKED WITH MANY CLIENTS WHO HESITATE TO FULLY COMMIT TO THEIR TRAINING.  FEAR OF INJURY, AGGRAVATING CHRONIC CONDITIONS, ALLOWING FITNESS TO TAKE UP A DISPROPORTIONATE AMOUNT OF TIME AND ENERGY IN THEIR LIVES ARE SOME OF THE REASONS.  TRULY THE BENEFIT OF FEELING STRONGER, MORE SURE OF YOUR FOOTING, IN CONTROL OF YOUR BALANCE, AND HAVING MORE ENERGY CANNOT BE OVERESTIMATED.  ONCE THE COMMITMENT HURDLE IS BREACHED, IT IS THE MIND/BODY CONNECTION THAT IS THE CHALLENGE.  THIS IS NOT SOMETHING COSMIC.  YOUR BRAIN COMMUNICATES WITH YOUR MUSCLES TO CREATE MOVEMENT AND FORCE.  FOR MANY PEOPLE IT TAKES TIME TO BECOME ACCUSTOMED TO THIS RELATIONSHIP AND ‘DIRECT’ THEIR MUSCLES. IT IS THE MIND/BODY CONNECTION THAT FACILITATES THE ACTIVATION OF MUSCLES THAT IS ESSENTIAL TO BUILDING STRENGTH.  IT IS ALSO TRUE NEW OR CHRONIC INJURIES DAMPEN THE COMMUNICATION BETWEEN BRAIN AND MUSCLE.  OFTEN THIS BE OVERCOME WITH CONSISTENT WORK.  WHAT WE MIGHT THINK IS A WEAKER LIMB USUALLY REQUIRES THAT WE LITERALLY TELL OUR BRAINS TO ‘SPEAK’ LOUDER AND LONGER TO THAT LIMB, POSSIBLY GIVING IT MORE REPETITIONS UNTIL IT RESPONDS  MORE LIKE IT DID PRIOR TO INJURY.  EVENTUALLY, THE EASE OF ACTIVATION RETURNS TO THAT LIMB SUCH THAT IT CAN FEEL LIKE IT USED TO.
WHILE WEIGHTS ARE NOT THE ONLY MODALITY I USE IN WORKING WITH CLIENTS, REST ASSURED THAT ACCORDING TO CONTROLLED STUDIES AND THE EXPERIENCE OF MANY OLDER ATHLETES, WEIGHT TRAINING IS APPROPRIATE FOR THE 50+.  LIKE ANY NEW ACTIVITY IT REQUIRES THAT BOTH PHYSICAL AND MENTAL ENERGY BE SPENT IN ORDER TO REAP THE BENEFITS.

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