Why lifting weights is something seniors shouldn’t skip

Dec 7, 2023, 3:00 PM

Weight lifting for seniors is important to help with bone density....

Phil Templeman spots Jared Vanderkolk while lifting at the Training Room in American Fork on Tuesday, April 21, 2020. The Training Room has stayed open during COVID-19 pandemic. (Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

(Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

WEST JORDAN, Utah — It’s common to see young people lifting weights at your local gym. You’ve probably seen their poses on Instagram. But what about lifting weights as seniors? Should people in their 60s, 70s and 80s be lifting?

Jake Thackeray has been a personal trainer with VASA in West Jordan for two-and-a-half years, and answers that with a hard “Yes!” He says it’s all about quality of life.

What’s the goal of lifting weights for seniors?

“If we’re looking at longevity, increasing our health span — not just life span,” Thackeray said. “We can increase life span with medicine, but if the quality of our lives is compromised, then it’s not that enjoyable.”

“I like to talk about the health span when you’re still able to go and do the stuff you want to do,” he said. “When people are training for that, they’re thinking, ‘What do I need to do so I can go and hike with my children? What do I need to do so I don’t get hurt when I go get the mail? How do I keep myself strong so that if I fall, I don’t break something? How do I train so that I can have good neuromuscular and cognitive aging?'”

At most gyms, you’ll see people lifting weights on machines, with free weights, using rowing machines and more. Do seniors do similar routines to younger people?

Related: How you can benefit from home workouts

“There are some differences,” Thackeray said. “But there are many more similarities in how you would train a young person to a more mature person. The things you would have to take into consideration include injury history. Most of the time we’ve had more bumps and bruises by the time we get to our later years.”

Another thing is bone mineral density.

“That’s something we lose as we age. Around 35, we start to see a little under 1% bone density loss every year,” Thackeray said. “Bone density loss is something a lot of my older clients are training for — to increase their bone mineral density.”

Should older women lift weights, too?

Thackeray said training is largely similar for his male and female clients. And yes, it is important for women to not just walk on the treadmill. Lifting weights is important for them, too, not just seniors.

“In some ways, I would say it’s more important because post-menopausal women lose bone density faster,” he said.

Every person starts where they are. Thackeray adjusts his workouts based on the client’s abilities.

“I start with foundational movements,” he explained. “All the movements can be scaled to a certain level — both regressed and progressed to a certain level.”

Thackeray says he has always loved exercise.

“And I loved the idea of not only improving my performance but improving others’ performance,” Thackeray said. “Whether that’s just being able to function throughout the day and not be tired or whether that’s going to the Olympics.”

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Why lifting weights is something seniors shouldn’t skip