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Why Senior Women Should Include Strength Training in Their Workout

Posted: February 27, 2020 in Why Strength Training Is Important For Senior Women

In 2008 there were 5.3 million deaths worldwide caused by a lack of physical activity. As we age, it is more important than ever to engage in aerobic physical activity as well as strength training. In this article, I will list the myriad of benefits that strength training provides for older women and outline the guidelines for strength training with links to 5 starter exercises.

The Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 2 1/2 hours of aerobic exercise and strength training every week.

Why Is Strength Training So Important?
FYI: When I use the term “strength training,” that includes free weights, weight machines, water, resistance bands and your own body weight.

When we age, our lean muscle mass naturally decreases. Sedentary seniors may lose anywhere from 3% to 8% of their body’s total muscle mass per decade. Strength training has been shown to reduce muscle loss while increasing resting metabolism by about 7%.

Inactivity may lead to the following medical conditions:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Heart Disease
  • Stroke
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • High Cholesterol
  • Metabolic Syndrome
  • Depression
  • Death

Some of the Many Benefits of Strength Training

1. Allows for greater delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the muscles which increases their performance capabilities
2. Increases general and maximal strength
3. Reduces body fat, especially belly fat, and helps maintain a healthy weight
4. Aids in the improvement of overall endurance
5. HDL (good cholesterol) typically increased 8% to 21% and LDL (bad cholesterol) decreased 13% to 23%
6. Triglyceride levels decreased 11% to 18%
7. Those with urinary incontinence experienced a 50% daily reduction of leakage
8. Reduces levels of anxiety and overall tension
9. Reduces depressive symptoms on the Hamilton Rating Scale of Depression:
61% for those doing high intensity training
29% for those doing low intensity training
10. Improves mood to be overall more positive while removing fatigue
11. Significantly increases levels of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factors (BDNF).
12. BDNF helps preserve existing brain neurons and stimulates growth of new neurons and synapses. This aids in learning, memory retention and higher level thinking.
13. Reduces fasting glucose levels
14. Reduces insulin resistance
15. Reduces the time it takes to fall asleep and improves the brain’s ability to store memories and new information
16. Strength training in conjunction with light walking decreases the severity of obstructive sleep apnea.
17. Information gathered by the National Health Interview Survey concluded that adults 65 and up who engaged in strength training twice a week had 46% lower odds of mortality
18. For newbies, as little as 1-3 sets, 3 times a week was enough to increase strength, increase skeletal mass and reduce body fat.

In order to avoid injury, it is recommended that you use safe equipment, be sure to warm up and cool down and follow the guidelines for proper range of motion. You can always work with a personal trainer if you feel you need the support. It is a good idea to let your doctor know that you are beginning a strength training regime.

Guidelines for Strength Training

If you are new to strength training and you feel intimidated by the weight machines at your gym, start off by using your own body weight. That will help you to learn proper form, build a base level of strength and avoid injury.
When you can perform 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions easily, start adding weights to your workout. Begin by doing a session lasting 10-15 minutes. Assess how you feel. If you experience soreness, wait for that to go away before embarking on your next session.

Here are 4 rules to live by:

Rule 1: Start with Your Own Body Weight
Learning proper form and alignment is crucial in order to avoid injury. Start practicing lunges and squats without weights.

Rule 2: The Last Few Repetitions Should Be Hard
If you finish all your repetitions with ease, it is time to increase the weights by 1-2 lbs at a time. If you are having to sacrifice form and misalignment to complete the exercise, you are using too much weight.

Rule 3: Use The Correct Amount of Weight for the Right Body Part
Since different muscle groups are stronger than others, make sure you are using the right amount of weight for the right group. For example, the weights you use for your glutes, the most powerful muscle group in our body, should be heavier than the weights you use for your shoulder muscles. Again, the conventional wisdom is to choose the weight that provides your body with a challenge without compromising your form and alignment.

Rule 4: Listen To Your Body
You want to challenge your body but you definitely want to avoid injury. When you are ready to add weights, do it  gradually with small increments. If you need to rely on momentum, you feel pain during the exercise or you are unable to complete the required range of motion during the exercise, you are using too much weight.

The recommend strength training schedule is 2-3 times per week on nonconsecutive days with cardio workouts on the days that you are resting from strength training. Don’t forget to warm up and cool down before your workout. Stretch every day, folks. It really helps!

2 Ways To Do The Exercises
1. Do 1 exercise at a time; 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions
2. Do the exercises as a circuit; 10-15 repetitions of 5 different exercises (one round) and do 3 rounds in total

Here is a link to 5 beginner exercises:
1. Squat
2. Incline Pushup
3. Seated Rowing
4. Stationery Lunge
5. Dead bug

Importance of Stretching
Stretching before and after exercise is just as important, especially for seniors. As we age, our muscles do not have the same flexibility and mobility they had when we were younger. Aging muscles do not fully relax and remain in a contracted state after exercise. I stretch every day of my life and I feel confident in saying that it makes a huge difference to how I feel; less pain, more flexibility and mobility.

The Cannabis Connection
I have written about the use of cannabis during workouts. Here is a link to that article if you choose to include it during your workouts.

Sources:, Strength Training Benefits and Guidelines for Seniors, Paige Waehner, May 25, 2018, 78 Science Backed Benefits of Weightlifting for Seniors, The Importance of Weight Training For Older Women, SBG-TV, Feb 27, 2018, Everything You Need To Know About Strength Training, K. Alesha Fetters, May 13, 2019, How To Choose The Right Weight For Strength Training, Brittany Risher, April 4, 2017

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