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Fitness Over 50: Weight-bearing exercises are key to staying functional

March 19, 2019 GMT

Have you started to notice that your muscles are slowly disappearing? What is happening? Where are they going?

At 60, I have really starting to see a change in my muscle mass in just this last year. Age-related muscle loss is called “sarcopenia,” and guess what y’all, it happens to all of us. Even those of us who work out regularly and lift weights regularly.

Whether we like it or not, in our mid 30s things start to go south in the muscle department. We can lose up to 5 percent for each decade. So, we better be sure to be proactive.

News flash! Do not wait until you are 60 or 70 to start this process! Sadly, though, that is exactly what many people do. If the foundation is not there, it takes way more effort to rebuild.

But it can be done. Body-weight exercises are a great place to start, especially if you do not have access to gym equipment. I would recommend starting with pushups, planks, squats, lunges and bridges.


With very little investment, you can purchase an exercise ball and tubing with handles. These two pieces of equipment can really expand what you can do. You can add decline pushups on the ball, overhead presses, arm rows, bicep curls, triceps extensions, wall squats and tons of core exercises.

In putting together a plan, you want to divide your workouts so that you are working upper body twice a week and lower body twice a week, if possible. You can do upper and lower on same day if you have time, but make sure you take a break the next day and let your muscles recover.

Make sure you are lifting a weight that is challenging. I am sorry to say that if you have been lifting just one- to two-pound weights for a while, it is time to move up. Past time, actually.

One issue I see frequently is people who never advance their weights or even their cardio workout. Doing the same thing over and over and not changing will result in not much of anything.

If you are not seeing the results you want, examine exactly what it is you are doing. Is it the same thing every single time you work out? I hate to say it, but this is super-common.

The same goes for your heart muscle and your skeletal muscles. They both need a challenge in order to see results. The response won’t be as desirable if your body is bored with the workout.

You need all types of workouts to be well rounded — not the same workout every single time.

If you are over 50 and not lifting weights, you may be sorry in the near future. Make it a part of your workout. Add multi-joint exercises to get the most bang for your buck.

If you are already doing the work to get stronger, good for you. But be sure to up your weight as you see the exercises getting easier. Don’t get stagnant.


To some extent, you are in charge of your quality of life. Of course, accidents happen, and illnesses too. But for the most part our decisions on how active we choose to be as we age can alter our quality of life. A sedentary lifestyle is an enemy to a body that was meant to move.

Even if you just start with walking 2-4 days a week, that is a great start. Add weights to your routine 2-4 days a week. Weight-bearing exercises are key to staying functional as you age. And by “functional,” I mean being able to bend down and pick up a shoe off the floor, or walk upstairs with a laundry basket, or reach high into a cupboard.

Make sure you consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine. If you can stick to it and continue to advance your weights, you could see results in 8-12 weeks. Ask a fitness professional if you are not sure where to start. Do it for your future independent self.

Ann Angell is a certified instructor and personal trainer. She is fitness director for the YMCA of Calhoun County. Her fitness column appears the third Sunday of each month.