You've heard by now what strength training can do for you — building muscle and bone density, decreasing body fat and risk of chronic disease, not to mention helping you live longer.
When you're over 50, committing to strength training twice a week is especially important — not so much to pump you up but to help in “building up and maintaining a level of muscle strength so that you can remain physically and mentally independent,” says Pamela Peeke, M.D., national spokesperson for the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). In other words, it's about functionality so you can perform ordinary daily activities on your own. And, no, your 50th birthday is not too young to start thinking this way.
“As we get older we begin to lose muscle,” notes fitness expert Bryant Johnson, author of The RBG Workout. “You start losing muscle mass as early as your 30s, so at a certain age you need to be concerned with your balance and mobility.” The federal government's guidelines for older adults recommend muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity that involve all major muscle groups on two or more days a week.
So what happens if you understand all this intellectually but still haven't made it to the mat? Let's examine some of the reasons for your resistance and how to get over them.
Hang-up: Getting started
What helps: Define your motivation
"I always ask, ‘What's your why?’ “ Johnson says. “If you don't understand why you're doing it, you're setting yourself up for failure.” Maybe, says Peeke, you want to remain physically and mentally independent. Perhaps the whole point of picking up weights is for you to “be able to say, ‘I'm living an independent life, and I'm not beholden to anyone to pull me out of a chair.’ “ Or maybe, she says, you take your inspiration from imagining what is “joyful and meaningful” for you. For example, if you love traveling, think about how you want to be able to make it up the steps of the Parthenon. Johnson tells prospective clients that they have to be both “committed” and “thoughtful,” since coming back to their motivation for getting strong will get them through the actual workouts down the road.