Strength Training Gets Everyone Lean and Fit

Granny pumps iron; grandpa does too. So should you!

The penalty for having kids at a young age is that, before you know it, you’re a grandparent. My wife’s new title, “Granny” causes people to do a double take because, although she is no longer a spring chicken, she still looks like one.

This is due, in very large part to, as the grandkids say, “Granny pumps iron”! That makes me “Grandpa” and, of course, I pump iron too.

We are doing well for folks in their fifties and early sixties but get this: We are in awe of Richard Sanders, of Decatur, Georgia, who, at age 97, pumps iron twice a week at his local YMCA.

“You get to be pushing 100 and things begin to change a bit”, said Sanders, interviewed in last week’s newspaper, “… this keeps my legs in better shape … I have noticed a difference in my physical and mental well-being.” In addition to good genes, this gentleman has a great attitude.

Admittedly, Mr. Sanders uses very light hand weights and elastic tubing. That is more than enough to increase his strength and maintain his mobility when many men and women, twenty years his junior, are confined to wheelchairs.

The reason that he can get good results from light weights is that his muscles don’t know that they are light weights. All the muscles do is respond to a stimulus greater than that to which they are accustomed.

So, whether you are forty-five, eighty-five or anywhere in between, you don’t have to lift like a bodybuilder to get real results. The choice of resistance is relative to the person doing the lifting.

A forty five year old male, ex-athlete might handle twenty five pound dumbbells and progress to fifty pounds and more. His seventy year old father may never lift anything over fifteen pounds (although many senior men do) and his eighty five year old aunt will probably get stronger by lifting two twelve-ounce cans of soup.

Taken to an extreme, consider that accident victims and invalids participate in strength and flexibility training. At this level it is called physiotherapy, but it involves exactly the same principles.

As you age, especially if you are sedentary or have experienced a hospital stay, your strength declines until many seniors are incapacitated, not because of age but because of atrophy. For this reason, the importance of weight training becomes even greater as you age.

What “pumping iron” will do for you at any age:
1. Improve strength and flexibility.
2. Shape and firm your muscles.
3. Make daily activities easier to perform.
4. Help burn fat.
5. Improve blood chemistry.
6. Improve insulin sensitivity.
7. Lower blood pressure.
8. Reduce cancer risk.
9. Improves bone density.

Ladies who are afraid of becoming “muscle bound” need not fear. Women lack the hormones necessary to develop large muscles. What you will experience however, is a fullness and shapeliness where you used to be flabby.

Senior men gradually lose the ability to gain serious muscle mass but, if they work hard, they can get significantly stronger and bigger well into their fifties and sixties.

The bottom line is that lifting weights can be tailored to persons of any age or ability. This activity is the single fastest way to increase strength and mobility and change your appearance. An exercise routine that does not include weight training is incomplete.

Resistance training also imparts a deep sense of well-being. If you have never tried “pumping iron” consider doing so now. If you are older and want to hire a personal trainer, find one with a specialty certification in working with seniors.

A great resource is the book “Getting in Shape” by Anderson, Pearl and Burke. Shelter Publications, 2002.

“Be Strong…. Be Lean”

Howard McGarity

“Coach Mac”