Preaching to the Choir: Seniors and Strength Training

TAGS: benefits of resistance training, Seniors and strength training, bone density test, joint replacement, muscle loss, hormone therapy, Jeff Guller


A great deal of what I have to say in this article may not apply to elitefts readers. That, in part, is a reason for the title. But I think some things need to be said, and I hope elitefts readers will help me spread the gospel. I realize that the demographic of elitefts readers is similar to that of the elitefts team of athletes, coaches, and columnists. Many are in their 20's and some more in their 30's. Many of the coaches are in their 30's and 40's.

Then there is Harry Selkow, who defies age because he can kick ass in any age group. There is also the group I'm in, of over-aged, beat-up, injured little old men. I use the term "little old men" as a term of affection rather than description; the last thing we are is little old men. We are hard-working, dedicated, motivated SOB's who, for the most part, defy our chronological age. We take names, kick ass, and then take naps.

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Nevertheless, I have a sermon for us all. For those of you to whom this does not apply, help me spread the word. Pretend, if you will, for the purpose of this article, that I am standing on a six-inch box behind a pulpit decorated with the trappings of your religion. Pretend further, if you will, that I am dressed in the garb and trappings of your religion. For those of you that are not religious or agnostic, you may pretend that the podium has no decoration, and my garb is of no particular note. Or, if you prefer, you may pretend that I am an overweight man with a long blond comb-over, orange makeup, a two thousand dollar suit, and a shirt and tie made in the orient. I want you to believe that I am someone who will deliver the facts and not fake news or alternative facts.

jeff guller senior fitness

The facts are: We all begin to lose muscle in our third decade. We all begin to lose bone density in our fourth decade, especially post-menopausal women, not on hormone therapy. One of the first tests given by doctors to post-menopausal women and men of the same age is a bone density test. This is why we think of seniors as having brittle bones that break easily in a fall. The good news is that both muscle loss and bone density loss can be prevented by resistance training. Yes, the things we meatheads do prevent us from losing both muscle and bone density. That, in part, is how a 47-year-old Donnie Thompson was able to achieve his 3,000 pound total and how, now at age 52, he could still come close to that total. The better news is that once lost, muscle and bone density can be restored by resistance training.

Yes, you heard me! Both muscle and bone density can be restored by resistance training. The most important exercise that a senior can do is getting their ass off the couch and into the gym. However, as I have seen in a gym with an older demographic, too often all the seniors do when they come to the gym is walk on a treadmill and go home. While walking on a treadmill is better than nothing, and coming to the gym is better than not, we must educate our seniors to the benefits of resistance training. The argument generally goes, "I'm too old to start lifting weights. I'm too old to start a program to get in condition. I worked hard and am too old to start this stuff now."

BULLSHIT! Age is not an excuse not to start resistance training — age is the reason to start such a regimen. I need your help! Tell your parents. Tell your grandparents. Help me educate my peers. The medical community won't do it. Do they even know? They say they are too busy saving lives. It's my opinion that they are too busy making tons of money.

I recently became aware of an alarming and terrible statistic. Over half of the people over 65 who break a hip die within two years. Two years! Why does that happen? Is it physical? Is it mental? Is it lack of health care? It may be a combination of all three. But it should not be at all. Resistance training would prevent a great deal of this craziness. I am no ballerina and neither are the people I train. Consequently, we all fall from time to time — on ice, walking dogs, or tripping on something we didn't see. Because of resistance training, our bone density is such that nothing breaks. Because of resistance training, we are strong enough to get the hell back up and be on our way.

MORE: Three Quarters of a Century and Still Getting Strong(er)

Another issue that makes me crazy (or crazier) is the failure of seniors to do the work necessary after joint replacement or serious illness to regain 110% of what was lost. Too often, after either of those events, we go to physical therapy or cardiac rehab for the required number of sessions or until the insurance expires and then we stop.

Healing still takes place two years after a joint replacement. While most people function well enough after a few months, they rarely continue the work necessary to get as good as they can. That, in part, is why they remain invalids. That, together with the fear of re-injury or recurring illness, shortens their remaining years significantly, for no damn reason. Often, a joint replacement or serious illness is a wake-up call. The problem is that the wake-up call is usually for a better diet and a more guarded existence. The wake-up call needs to be the better diet and their old ass going to the gym for resistance training — both men and women.

The human body is a well-designed complex mechanism. It is made to function and move. When we cease to move it or allow it to move, we begin its destruction. If we took care of our machinery and equipment like we took care of our bodies, nothing would work. As we age, we cease to move, and our bodies deteriorate and die — for no damn good reason!

Lifting weights in our 20's and 30's is fun and help us be fit and look good. Lifting weights as seniors is necessary to our health, well-being, and longevity. How do we get this message to our seniors? How can we express the urgency of our message? Please help me! Tell your parents, aunts, and uncles. Let's get them to the gym so we can have them around longer. And let us all say AMEN.


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