Why It Is More Important Than You Might Think
At the gym I see lots of middle-aged people spending lots of time in the aerobics room, and few of them building strength in the weights area. Those that are in the weights area are more often than not sitting on machines taking a rest. It's not hard to conclude that most people past 45 don't place a high value on all-round body strength. Yet, all round body strength is one of the most fundamental physical assets that will help them improve their quality of life.
And my observation over 20 years at the gym is that, in particular, most mid-life women limit their understanding of "exercise" to cardio like biking or running. The idea that they could actually become strong perhaps seems absurd to the point that it never strikes them as a real possibility. But more than men, women 50+ need strength training to regain essential components of their degenerating musculoskeletal system.
"Lifestyle Fitness" - one of my bylines - means that you are able to tote heavy bags of groceries with ease, stow a suitcase in the overhead bin on a train or plane, or carry a grandchild on your shoulders, and keep running and kicking when playing football with them. If you have little-used muscles then they will be weak. This potentially leads to injuries, falls, and disability, especially in older people.
The way to keep muscles strong is to use them, of course, and, in particular, to work them to their limit periodically, ideally once a week. That means doing some sort of strength training with weights (dumbbells and barbells and kettlebells), or other resistance devices. Personally I prefer dynamic loads with kettlebells as these create functional strength.
A balanced strength-training program is good not only for your muscles, but also for your bones, back, balance, ageing brain, and pain management. The latter is point is often overlooked - neglecting strength development gives you little physical foundation for managing your chronic joint pain. As you rebuild your muscles the exercises also improve the condition of your connective tissue, such as tendons and cartilage. This helps the joints align properly, and reduces joint pain.
Although you cannot reach the ultimate strength outcomes without heavy weights* e.g. deadlifts and cleans - you can still achieve enormous benefits by just doing bodyweight exercises. And of course you can do those yourself at home. Still, access to good equipment at a gym and a trainer, at least initially, is an advantage. After you have gained the knowledge you can start to progress your own strength-building program.
“Don’t ask for a light load, but rather ask for a strong back”- Unknown
Going beyond the "Lifestyle Fitness" benefits, which are numerous, there are basic health and wellness benefits which accrue from strength training and in particular these below translate into a happier, healthier heart. These alone should make everyone over 50 replan their exercise routines to include strength training.
Examine your options for building strength and adding them into your exercise routines. Start small, and go slowly, and use the correct form and posture at all times. You'll gain a lot more than just muscle.
Since I was diagnosed at 50 with Type 2 diabetes I've been learning how to do bone-building body-shaping training for people our age. You can too. It's your choice. Walter