As a physio we’ve known for a long time that resistance training, strength training or lifting weights is vital to lead healthy and long lives. In fact lifting weights over 65 years of age is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves and those around us.
We’ve got bundles of research on what weight training does to improve muscles, bones, joints, mood and cognitive function.
I’ve met hundreds of older clients who’ve come to me in clinic in pain. Some of them are frail. Others feel isolated and unsure. All of them who come to physiotherapy with musculoskeletal pain benefit from lifting something on the heavy side.
But most are fearful.
There’s this stigma that’s around in society that as we get older we go from these springy, energetic and vibrant humans into creaky and lethargic grey ghosts.
Well, this is poppycock. I’ve seen it with my own eyes! Older Australians transformed from slow, tired and sore bodies into bounding bundles of vibrant energy. All through the power of lifting.
While this is something I get the absolute pleasure of being part of as a physiotherapist, it’s not something everyone else gets to see.
So here’s some examples of amazing older adults who are living proof that you’re never to old to start lifting for a better life.
Join me in embracing lifting weights over 65 years of age.
71 Year Old Helen from Cairns
Helen from Cairns:— PridePlus Health (@PridePlusHealth) September 14, 2021
“I think I'm probably the oldest person in the gym most days, but I'm not treated like an old person. I'm just treated like somebody who's come to lift some weights and have some fun.”https://t.co/PHtIUnWjXT
71-year-old Helen from Cairns took up powerlifting after being diagnosed with osteoporosis. Helen is deadlifting the equivalent of the national record for her age after two months’ training.
According to experts heavy lifting could replace medication for some people with the osteoporosis and improve bone mineral density score from osteoporotic back to the normal range.
Although it is not common to see seniors lifting heavy weights, that shouldn’t stop you from having your part of the fun.
Here’s what Helen had to say, “I think I’m probably the oldest person in the gym most days, but I’m not treated like an old person. I’m just treated like somebody who’s come to lift some weights and have some fun.”
Source: ABC News Australia
Something Special in Castlemaine
Castlemaine, the lovely little town in Country Victoria where a powerlifting craze has taken off. Lifting weights over 65 years of age has become the norm.
Teresa from Castlemaine— PridePlus Health (@PridePlusHealth) September 14, 2021
“It’s just changed everything. You just feel so good you want to get out and do things”https://t.co/eiayrWUTMt
What is Powerlifting?
Powerlifting is a sports where athletes compete to lift the maximum weight in the squat, bench press and deadlift.
Anne from Castlemaine:— PridePlus Health (@PridePlusHealth) September 14, 2021
“Everyday activities become easier. Might be getting out of the car, lifting the shopping, putting clothes on the line. A lot of those things that might seem fairly trivial, they change and you feel those changes”https://t.co/eiayrWUTMt
Another young powerlifter, Ian who took up lifting weights over 65 gave this reasoning to start and what he gets out getting strong.
“I’d be walking around and I’d sort of wobble. Just through improving my posture and core strength and stability that’s gone. It’s just disappeared. ”
Source: The Feed, SBS
Edith Lifting Weights at 100 Years Old
Edith from Tampa:— PridePlus Health (@PridePlusHealth) September 14, 2021
“In my 90s I became more aware of the need that people have to be recognized for who they are or what they are or how they are and it’s the most beautiful thing in the world and I think I survive on that mostly”https://t.co/bGazU4CAeB
Edith Murway-Traina was introduced to the gym by her friend when she was 91 years old. Eventually, she was hooked to the challenge of lifting. Now at 100, she recently entered into the 2022 Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest competitive female powerlifter ever.
Her current records stand at
- Bench Press — 20.4 kilograms (45 pounds)
- Deadlift — 49.9 kilograms (110 pounds)
On how lifting gave her a sense of appreciation from members of the community
“In my 90s I became more aware of the need that people have to be recognized for who they are or what they are or how they are and it’s the most beautiful thing in the world and I think I survive on that mostly.”
On competing: “As a performer and a dancer applause was always an important part of my enjoyment.”
Lifting Weights Over 65 To Fight Dementia
Australian Dementia Researcher— PridePlus Health (@PridePlusHealth) September 14, 2021
"There was no grey zone about these results…"
“…resistance exercise needs to become a standard part of dementia risk-reduction strategies".https://t.co/wVAWO78lvZ
A study consisting of 100 participants at high risk of Alzheimer’s disease looked at the role of strength training in disease management. Participants were randomly split into four groups and given tasks including computerised brain training, strength training, a combination of the two and a control group.
“In the control group, those sub-parts of the hippocampus were shrinking at an expected level of around 3 to 4 per cent... In those doing weight training, we saw much less, so 1 to 2 per cent and in some areas none at all.”
Which means, if you’re looking to prevent some of the debilitating affects of dementia lifting weights and strength training needs to become a habit.
Source: ABC News
90 Year Old Canadian Joe
Joe from Winnipeg— PridePlus Health (@PridePlusHealth) September 14, 2021
According to Joe the secret to his longevity is sticking “to the program”.https://t.co/APp4z8ghck
At 90 years old Joe Stockinger from Winnipeg, Canada, deadlifts 405lbs (more than 185 Kg) almost 3 times his bodyweight. His strength didn’t develop overnight. He has been in powerlifting for over 7 decades.
According to Joe the secret to his longevity is sticking “to the program” and not doing “ego lifts when he knows he isn’t prepared to lift a certain weight. He just grinds away on what works for him.”
“It’s all old age” that’s what I commonly hear from seniors. Well Joe is a walking testimony that if you take small consistent baby steps in keeping yourself strong, you could still roll around like a tank into your 90s.
Grandpas in China
Gravity defying feats by Grandpas in China. These exercises require tremendous strength and body control. They show us that even without access to a gym it is possible to stay strong!
Start Lifting Weights Over 65 Today
Our physiotherapy and exercise physiology team want you to feel these benefits too. To help you there we’ve created Masters of Strength. A program where you can start and build on your lifting journey in a safe and supportive environment.
Learn more about lifting weights over 65 and the Masters of Strength program here.
About the Author
Physiotherapist Dominic Tan is passionate about improving lives. He sees first hand the transformations that can occur when we improve our lives by engaging with the exercises we need. Working alongside Exercise Physiologists he’s developed Masters of Strength, a program to improve the quality of life we all have as we age. If you’d like to see Dominic for a physiotherapy session you can book in with him in our Pascoe Vale physiotherapy clinic.