Lifting Weights Over 50: Why Women Should Join the Strength Club

Walk into any gym and you’ll notice a great divide, with women hitting the treadmills and elliptical machines, while the men lay claim to the weight machines. It’s a divide that seems to only get greater with age. Yet, according to a new study, if you’re a woman over 50, skipping the weights in favor of just cardio could be a big mistake. Women have as much reason, and more in some cases, to pick up the weights.

Similar gains across the sexes

Researchers set out to delve into the benefits weight training can deliver, and — the pressing question — whether or not those benefits vary based on your sex. “Historically, people tended to believe that men adapted to a greater degree from resistance training compared to women,” said Dr. Amanda Hagstrom, exercise science lecturer at UNSW Medicine & Health and senior author of the study. In other words, we tend to think men get more out of it — more muscle, more definition, and a better shape — than women.

The team consolidated the results of 30 different resistance training studies involving over 1400 participants, specifically comparing the results of men and women over the age of 50. While men are likely to gain more absolute muscle size, the gains relative to body size are on par with women’s. And guess what… the team found no, and I mean zero, difference in the benefits of weight training between men and women over 50.

In fact, the results showed that by participating in resistance training, women can achieve similar relative muscle size gains and increased upper body strength as men. In other words, women get the same benefits, it’s just that those benefits are based on their body size. So, while a large man may end up with large muscles from weight lifting, a small woman can get the same level of gain, with muscles that appear smaller.

Health benefits of resistance training

Resistance training has a handful of other health benefits, according to the Mayo Clinic. Some of these may jump out as being especially appealing to women:

  • Better manage your weight
  • Boost bone strength
  • Reduce symptoms of chronic conditions like arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease
  • Improve your mood
  • Sharpen your thinking and learning skills

Tips to improve your resistance workout

The researchers say that older men tend to benefit from higher intensity programs. This works to enhance their absolute upper and lower body strength. Women, on the other hand, should shoot for higher overall exercise volumes — basically, more weekly repetitions should improve both their relative and absolute lower body strength.

And whether you’re a man or a woman, training longer could help, with men seeing increases in relative and absolute muscle size and women achieving increased upper body strength. So, no matter your sex or your age, start grabbing the muscle-boosting and health-promoting benefits of resistance training today and hit those weights.

Importance of consistency and proper form

It’s essential to maintain consistency with your weight training routine, ensuring you’re hitting the gym regularly and working on different muscle groups each session. Additionally, proper form is crucial for getting the most out of your workouts and preventing injury. You might consider working with a personal trainer or following instructional videos to ensure you’re practicing good form.

Incorporate a balanced approach

Although resistance training offers numerous benefits for women over 50, don’t completely abandon cardio workouts or flexibility training. Incorporating a balanced approach to your fitness routine allows you to get the benefits of all three types of exercise. Aim for a mix of cardio, resistance, and flexibility training throughout the week to optimize your overall health, balance, and fitness.

Keep your goals in mind

While weight training has plenty to offer women over 50, it’s essential to remember that your primary goal should be improved health, not just aesthetics. Weight training can help you lose weight, gain muscle tone, and feel stronger, but don’t get caught up in comparing your progress to others. Focusing on your unique goals and accomplishments will keep you motivated and excited about your fitness journey.

Listen to your body

Finally, it’s crucial to listen to your body as you embark on your weight training journey. If you’re new to it, you may experience soreness or fatigue, which is normal. However, it’s essential to differentiate between typical muscle fatigue and pain indicating an injury. Listen to what your body is telling you and adjust your workouts accordingly.

To conclude, weight training should not be overlooked by women over 50. By incorporating resistance training into your fitness routine, you’ll see improvements in muscle size, bone strength, and overall health. So, make a plan to start lifting weights today and embrace the many benefits that await.