Fitness Over 50 - Exercises To Build Muscle as You Get Older
The older you are, the more important it is for you
to do weight training. Doesn't seem right, does it? The ads for
gyms and weight training products show buff young people showing
off their svelte bodies or rippling muscles. Yet, although appearance
is still important, older people really need to maintain their strength.
There are millions of people, some as young as their 60s, whose
activities are limited because they are too weak to take care of
The average person starts losing muscle mass somewhere about age
25, so it's not too early to start working on maintaining, or increasing,
yours. You won't get bulging muscles from doing some moderate weight
training. Bodybuilders work really hard to get those rippling muscles-and
sometimes add a little chemical help.
Speaking of chemical help, don't count on supplements to build
muscle. You have to work out. You need some iron, in the form of
barbells, dumbbells, or weight machines, although some people start
with rubber bands. Body weight exercises, or calisthenics, can be
good, but the main thing is to ask your muscles to do more than
they are used to.
The advice to use light weights and high repetitions if you're
older is not accurate. If you choose a dumbbell that's no heavier
than your steam iron and you can do 30 reps of a biceps curl, it's
too light. The rule-of-thumb is under 6 reps for maximum strength,
8-12 for building muscle and some strength, and over 15 for muscular
endurance. Yes, you do want to build muscle. Remember that most
of your arm that isn't muscle is fat. And you can't get strong without
It used to be thought that you couldn't build muscle after 50.
This was because research was conducted using weights that were
too light. Then there was a study where men in their 60s were asked
to do exercises with challenging resistance, and they ended up stronger
than they ever were. A subsequent study was done in a nursing home,
and people in their 80s and 90s were able to increase strength,
muscle, and functional capacity.
You can join a gym, but you don't have to. You can work out at
home, or check out the local YMCA or parks and recreation department.
Use machines, body weight, free weights (dumbbells and barbells),
or some of each. You can get by with as little as 20 minutes twice
a week, or work out several times a week. Make sure you work every
muscle group during that week. It's important to learn to do the
Start out with light weights until you learn the exercises. Then
work up to a weight that tires your muscles after 10 or 12 repetitions.
You can do some of your exercises at different reps, but don't go
so light that you don't challenge your muscles or so heavy that
you can't maintain good technique. Weight training can make you
feel really good about yourself, but be sure you get adequate rest
and don't overdo. The program you choose depends on your level of
fitness, time schedule, and level of enthusiasm. Talk to your doctor
before beginning to see if there are exercises you should avoid.