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Although you may think of weightlifting as an activity for younger ages, an appropriately designed program is also beneficial for women over 50. A whole-body lifting program two or three times per week provides numerous physical and cognitive benefits, and helps reduce your risk of developing chronic disease. If you have been inactive or have preexisting health issues, be sure to check with a healthcare professional before starting a program.
Lifting weights helps maintain or increase bone density and muscle mass, both of which decline with age. Muscles keep your metabolism elevated and improve your insulin sensitivity, both of which decline with age. Stronger muscles also improve your balance, reducing your risk of falling. Furthermore, weightlifting helps offsets the menopause-related decline in bone density and reduces your risk of developing osteoporosis. Finally, a Tufts University study showed that a 16-week strength training program improved osteoarthritis-related pain and disability in older individuals with the disease, indicating the therapeutic value of strength training.
Although you may not hear as much about the mental benefits of weightlifting, it can improve your cognition, mood and self-esteem. In a 2010 study published in the вЂњArchives of Internal Medicine,вЂќ weightlifting just once per week improved cognitive function and reduced health care costs in 37 individuals between age 65 to 75. Furthermore, weightlifting improves symptoms of depression, possibly due to a combination of increased self-confidence and positive biochemical changes in the brain.
Doing your weightlifting sessions at a gym gives you access to a variety of equipment and has staff on hand to help guide you through the exercises. However, if the gym isn't convenient or appealing, you can get a good workout with just a sturdy chair and space to move. Wear comfortable clothes that don't restrict your movement and choose athletic shoes with good support. Plan to do your workouts on two or three nonconsecutive days per week to give your muscles time to recover between workouts.
Your weightlifting routine should include exercises for both the upper and lower body. Focus on moves that work the large muscle groups, such as squats, wall pushups, toe stands and overhead finger marching. Start with two sets of 10 repetitions of each exercise, resting one to two minutes between each set. If you can't do 10 repetitions of a given exercise with proper form, reduce the amount of weight you lift. If you could've done all 20 repetitions easily without a break, add enough weight that a set of 10 repetitions feels difficult, but doable.
Intensity and Progression
Your weightlifting routine should feel moderately difficult, but doable. Your routine will probably feel easier after two or three weeks of consistent training, so if 12 repetitions starts to feel easy, increase the amount of weight you lift. For moves like the wall pushup, moving your hands a few inches lower on the wall will increase the difficulty of the movement. However, be sure that the weight increase doesn't compromise your form.