Lydia Forsythe, 67, estimates that she’s been hitting the heavy weights for 14 months now. As she finishes up her last set of deadlifts and sets down the 95-pound barbell, she turns and smiles, saying “So much more fun than yoga!”
Forsythe, a retired accountant from Addison, Michigan, liked to play tennis in her 30’s and 40’s. But she never even set foot in a gym, much less lifted a barbell, until she was in her mid-sixties.
‘Aging Athletes’ is Not an Oxymoron
Despite her age and her late start, Lydia feels that her strength and stamina are continuously improving, to the point where she feels she’s in better shape now than any other period of her life. “I have found that aside from the obvious physical benefits, strength training has made me feel more confident, more balanced, and just better overall”.
Like anyone who starts a new fitness routine and sticks with it, Lydia has discovered that being physically active changes your life for the better in a lot of ways. Too bad, then, that only about one-third of 65-74 year-olds are physically active.
What holds seniors back?
The same things that hold younger generations back from working out and being active: inertia, scheduling issues, and fear.
What most people don’t know is that aging doesn’t necessarily bring a diminished capacity for physical fitness.
Did you know that more than half of marathon finishers are over the age of 40?
Because of people like Lydia and older marathon runners, experts are now questioning conventional wisdom that says aging has to mean decreased athleticism.
Does Strength Training Really Help With Fall Prevention?
Back to Lydia. Her words about balance are truer than she even realizes. That’s because of a little known fact about strength training and balance: they go hand in hand with one another.
If you’re wondering how hefting big weights around the gym can help you with your balance, you’re not alone. While it’s clear to see the connection between activities like Tai Chi and balance, it’s not exactly intuitive to put barbells and balance together in your mind.
According to the National Institute on Aging, weight training does indeed improve balance. Especially lower-body strength exercises. Ask any fitness instructor or personal trainer: improving core muscle strength is a well-known pathway to better balance.
Core training comes in many forms, but classic weight-lifting moves like Lydia’s favorite, the deadlift, is a great builder of core muscles. Another classic move is squats. Like deadlifts, squats are compound exercises, meaning when you do them, you’re hitting several different muscles groups at once.
Strength Training Principles Apply to All Ages
Fitness enthusiasts have long known that improving the muscles around your trunk (aka your “core” muscles) does wonderful things for balance. Your core is at the heart of everything your body does during the day. No matter how strong your arms and legs might be, they won’t help you with balance. The key to better balance is in the core.
Not sure you’re quite ready for Lydia’s level of weight lifting yet?
Start out with yoga, Tai Chi, or even a Bosu ball, all of which address balance and stability by strengthening core muscles. Before long, you might be in the gym doing squats and deadlifts just like Lydia.
As is true of any new form of exercise, talk with your doctor before getting started.
Fitness Options at Five Star Senior Living
However you design your personal fitness routine at Five Star Senior Living, we support your endeavors. Fitness is part of the Five Dimensions of Wellness, which form the foundation of our Lifestyle360 program. Come for a visit or give us a call to see what it’s all about!