Pumping Iron Over 60

Shustov CC-BY-SA-3.0

If you’re over 60 and you’ve decided to start lifting weights, you’ll enjoy many health benefits, including stronger muscles and bones. You can strengthen your body using free weights, such as dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells. Beginners, no matter your age, should start slowly with light weights and focus on proper form to reduce your risk of injury. You should seek instruction by a qualified fitness trainer if you decide not to use a gym. See your doctor for a complete checkup before you start any exercise program. Always warm-up before working out and cool-down afterward.

Beginners should design a workout routine that works all your muscle groups in 2 workouts each week. Don’t lift weights on consecutive days because your muscles need at least one day to rest and recover. Train a different muscle group at each workout to avoid overuse injuries. Work your upper body one day and your core and lower body at the next workout. Lift slowly and focus on your form. Improper form or lifting too quickly can cause injuries. Begin by doing 8 repetitions of each exercise followed by 1 minute of rest. Do another set of 8 repetitions after you rest. Increase the number of repetitions, the number of sets, or the amount of weight when you can do 3 sets without becoming fatigued.

You can use dumbbells to work your upper and lower body. Dumbbell squats work your core, hips, quadriceps and calves. Shoulder shrugs work your arms, shoulders and upper back. Biceps curls are easy for beginners to perform and work your biceps and forearms. If you really want to focus on your upper body and chest, do dumbbell overhead press exercises. Simply holding a set of dumbbells when you do exercise, such as lunges and crunches, adds extra weight resistance.

Barbells are versatile free weights that train the most muscle tissue in the shortest amount of time. People over age 60 should start working with barbell weights slowly with light weights and focus intently on form. Never hold your breath when lifting weights because holding your breath can cause your blood pressure to increase rapidly. Squats, deadlifts and presses are functional lifts that mimic the movements you make when you reach, lift, bend over, sit down and stand up. You can easily add and remove weight to a barbell to suit your fitness and strength level.

Kettlebells are large, heavy weights with a handle. These weights can be used in a number of ways to help strengthen your entire body. Begin with the lightest kettlebells available and gradually work your way up to heavier weights. Kettlebells can be used to work your entire body. Exercises that beginners can do include the half Turkish get up, kettlebell squats, deadlifts, and two-arm swings. Do 8 repetitions of each exercise, rest for as long as you need to and repeat the set.


Fitness for Older Beginners

Photo Credit: Shustov  CC-BY-SA-3.0
It’s never too late to start a fitness program of regular exercise and a healthy diet. Older adults can benefit from beginning a fitness program at any age, even if you have been inactive for years. Walking, bicycling and swimming are good, low-impact exercises for older adults. Those who suffer from arthritis will benefit from low-impact exercise to help manage pain and keep the joints from becoming stiff. Low-impact exercises also help stimulate the metabolism, which helps with the regulation of blood sugar and cholesterol. Endorphins produced in the brain are natural mood elevators that also reduce pain. Consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise or fitness program, especially if you have been sedentary for years. In addition to walking, bicycling and swimming, exercises that are easy on the joints and help to maintain flexibility and mobility include rowing and elliptical machines and treadmills. If a gym membership is not in your budget or schedule, there are home exercise machines available at major retailers or fitness stores. Sometimes gyms sell used equipment at tremendous savings over a new machine. 

Begin your exercise program slowly and work your way up to at least 30 minutes each day. Try walking for 5 minutes every day for one week. The next week add 5 minutes for a 10 minute walk. Soon you will be walking for 30 minutes without feeling too tired. Once you can walk for 30 minutes, try speeding up your pace to a brisk walk for the same amount of time. Brisk walking is a great way to get your  heart pumping and your lungs working at maximum capacity. Walking is one of the best ways to get a good cardiovascular workout with minimum risk of injury. 
As people age they begin to lose muscle mass and their bones may lose density, becoming soft or brittle. Strength training, along with a healthy diet that includes plenty of vitamins and calcium, can help to prevent bone loss and maintain muscle tissue. Start with a 1 or 2 pound dumbbell weights when beginning strength training. Firm up your arms and keep your joints flexible by performing 5 biceps and 5 triceps exercises every other day. It’s important to let your muscles rest between strength training exercises so that they can heal and rest. When you can do 10 curls (5 biceps and 5 triceps) without feeling tired, increase the number of repetitions. As you grow stronger, add more weight (1 pound at a time). You may experience some muscle soreness, but this is normal. A mild over-the-counter pain reliever can help. Always check with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medication, especially if you are taking prescription medications.