Many people used to think that getting older meant experiencing an inevitable physical decline. Of course it’s true that most 60 year old women aren’t going to run a 3-minute mile or lift 100 pound weights, but recent research suggests that older adults can continue to stay stronger and healthier with regular exercise, especially strength training. Fitness after 60 is a choice.
A recent article in the New York Times, says that after age 40, people typically lose 8 percent or more of their muscle mass every ten years, but losing strength as we get older is not inevitable. In fact, it was observed that competitive cyclists and swimmers in their 70s and 80s were about as strong as they were in their 60s. Even with decreasing muscle strength in the legs, the process of losing muscle can be slowed or halted with good exercise and strength training.
Dr. Vonda Wright, at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, was involved with conducting the study, and was quoted as saying, “People don’t have to lose muscle mass and function as they grow older. The changes that we’ve assumed were due to aging and therefore were unstoppable seem actually to be caused by inactivity. And that can be changed.”
What Types of Exercise are Best?
Some research suggests that running may help improve muscle mass, but the conclusions are unclear as to which type of exercise is best for women over 60.
One study found that older people can get stronger through weight lifting and resistance training. In fact 73 year old Sandy Palais of Tempe, Arizona was profiled in this story. She started lifting weights three days a week after being diagnosed with osteoporosis and soon was earning silver and gold medals as a weightlifter at the Senior Olympics.
Getting Stronger As We Get Older
Exercise physiologist Mark Peterson found changes from strength training can be dramatic, increasing muscle mass by an average of 2.5 pounds in five months with some adults over 50. So, women can think about weight training and exercise for both “maintaining” and building lots of new muscle and boosting strength.
If you have been sedentary for a while and want to start an exercise routine, just start slow. Talk to your doctor before making big changes in your physical activity level. One of the best ways to exercise is simply to walk for 30 minutes per day.
Check out this YouTube video called “23 and ½ hours” from Dr. Mike Evans, a specialist in preventive medicine. He asks “what is the single best thing we can do for our health?” You’ll be amazed at how such a simple activity can improve people’s health and reduce health risks in a wide variety of ways.
If you want to start lifting weights, check with your local gym for options for personal training or classes. It’s often best to get guidance on how to lift weights properly to avoid injury and make sure you’re getting optimal results.
Life after 60 doesn’t have to be a time of physical decline. It can be a time of rejuvenation and finding new strength – emotionally, spiritually and physically.