Defying Age: The Power of Strength Training in Later Years

Defying Age: The Power of Strength Training in Later Years

In the quiet dawn of my home in California, a serene landscape, I walk my dog around a neighborhood actually built for walking (a rare feature in most American big cities) and have no pain. At 51, I'm not your typical hero from the tales of old. I'm not a hero at all. My battlefield? My at-home gym. My weapon? A simple pair of dumbbells. My quest? Defying the relentless march of time with the power of strength training.

Once, I viewed the gym as the domain for others not someone nearing the epilogue of their story. Honestly, I didn't engage with fitness until I was well on my way to 40. I thought weights were like mythical artifacts, meant only for the chosen ones, the young protagonists in the saga of life. When you grow up in the late 70's and 80's, fitness was Jazzercise and dance routines. Maybe when Arnold Schwarzenegger's Pumping Iron came out, I began to see what weight training could do, but it still seemed out of reach. A bastion of the barbarian, the warrior. Not me. 

But as the chapters of my life unfolded, a transformation began. I discovered that the iron in my hands wasn't just metal; it was a wand of change, a tool for alchemy. I joined the millions in ordering P90X on DVD (remember those?).

I really liked the combination of strength training and cardio and that I could do it at home, in a small space. Repetitive it became. Just seven workouts, done over and over again. It didn't last. So, I embraced the next thing: Crossfit. Now, this was something I could enjoy. It had community. It had lifting. Lastly, it looked really hard. Everyone was destroyed after each workout but I began to see the benefits. Each lift, each squat, each press was a spell I cast against the aging curse. In this quest, I wasn't just lifting weights; I was lifting myself into a realm of strength and vitality previously unimagined.

I journeyed through this path, feeling more like a character leveling up. With each session, I gained strength, not just in muscle, but in spirit. My genetics aren't one for quick changes, so my progress was long and embattled. Over time, I became a living testament to myself to the power of defying age, a reminder that the final chapters of our lives can be as adventurous and fulfilling as the first.

This isn’t a tale of fiction. It’s my narrative, a firsthand account of battling the dragon of time with the sword of strength training. It’s an epic not yet complete, as I continue to forge my path, proving that age is but a number, and strength is a story we can keep writing.

A Bit of Science Behind Strength Training

As we age, our bodies naturally lose muscle mass, a condition known as sarcopenia. According to a study published in 'The Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine', adults lose 3-8% of muscle mass per decade after the age of 30. This loss accelerates after 60. However, strength training can counteract these effects.

The article highlights that regular strength training increases muscle mass and strength in older adults. Participants in the study, aged 65 to 79, saw an average increase of 2.42 pounds of lean muscle mass after 18-20 weeks of strength training.

The study detailed:

"All training sessions started with 5 to 10 minutes of whole-body warm-up exercises. During the first week of training, no weight was used; the focus was on learning the exercises in a safe way using only participants' body weight and suspension bands. In the first week, exercises were performed in 2 sets of 12 repetitions each, followed by 3 sets of 10 repetitions each in weeks 2 to 4. The intensity of the program increased in terms of sets and resistance, with maintenance of CR-10 scores of 6 to 7. In weeks 5 to 7, participants performed 4 sets of 10 repetitions each."

In Conclusion:

"The key finding of this study is that an easy-to-use strength training program with a focus on body weight–based exercises was effective in preventing loss in functional strength and increasing muscle mass and in older adults with pre-sarcopenia."


In my opinion, the most important part is in the conclusion of stating "an easy-to-use" program is essential here. Often times, we endeavor too much too fast in our adoption of exercise, going for the current trends as opposed to what's easiest for us, right now. If you look inside that study and focus on the participants, their overall participation wavered for some. Some quit early on. Some early after several weeks due to life getting in the way (which happens all the time). Just find that thing that works for you and who cares if it's just a couple times a week, the benefit will be significant over zero.

Here are some key dos and don'ts to maximize benefits and minimize risks:

    Do Start Slowly:

    • Why: As per the American College of Sports Medicine, starting slowly helps acclimate the body to new stresses, reducing injury risk.
    • What to Do: Begin with lighter weights or bodyweight exercises and gradually increase the intensity. Focus on mastering the form before adding more weight.

      Don't Ignore Pain:

      • Why: Pain, as distinguished from muscle soreness, can indicate injury. Listening to your body's signals. It's ok to rest a day or two.
      • What to Do: If you experience sharp or persistent pain during exercises, stop immediately. Consult a healthcare professional if the pain persists.

        Do Maintain Consistency:

        • Why: Consistency is key for muscle growth and strength gains. Regular training yields the best results.
        • What to Do: Aim for at least two strength training sessions per week, as recommended by the CDC.

          Don't Neglect Other Forms of Exercise:

          • Why: Balancing strength training with flexibility and aerobic exercises creates a well-rounded fitness routine, essential for overall health.
          • What to Do: Incorporate activities like walking, swimming, or yoga into your weekly routine. I like to do anywhere from 8-12k steps per day with my dog (an excellent workout buddy).

          Do Focus on Major Muscle Groups:

            • Why: Working all major muscle groups ensures balanced muscle development and reduces injury risk. The 'American Journal of Preventive Medicine' highlights the importance of this holistic approach.
            • What to Do: Include exercises for legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms in your workout regimen.

            Remember, it's always advisable to consult with a fitness professional, especially when starting a new exercise routine. They can provide personalized guidance based on your health and fitness level.

            Improving Quality of Life

            Strength training also significantly impacts the quality of life. According to 'The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy', older adults engaging in regular strength training have better mobility, balance, and posture. They're 27% less likely to fall, reducing the risk of serious injuries.

            Mental health benefits are noteworthy too. A study in 'The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry' found that older adults who included strength training in their routines experienced a 32% reduction in symptoms of depression.

            As I journeyed deeper into my strength training saga, I discovered that the benefits transcended mere physical transformation. It wasn't just about gaining muscle or defying the stereotypical weakness of old age; it was about upgrading my entire life experience, like a character leveling up in an RPG.

            1. Enhanced Mobility – The Agility Buff:

              • Each strength training session felt like I was unlocking new agility skills. Imagine you Baldur's Gate 3 tav getting a dexterity buff. That was me, navigating through life with improved mobility, making every day movements smoother and more efficient, like a well-oiled machine or at least, a averagely oil machine.
            2. Balanced Stability – Equipping Feather Fall:

              • The increase in balance and stability was akin to equipping a rare set of gear in an MMORPG that drastically reduces the chance of taking fall damage. My risk of tripping and falling, a common boss battle for many in their later levels of life, was significantly mitigated. It's like having an invisible shield, always activated.
              • TIP!: Always grab the handrail on your way up and down stairs. I can't tell you how often I've come across a video of someone falling down stairs but could have mitigated disaster by just grabbing the hand rail. Stairs are a big killer with older individuals but this simple tip can mitigate a bad fall or ever worse.
            3. Mental Health Power-ups – Casting Spells Against Depression:

              • The mental health benefits were as significant as the physical ones. Each session was like casting a spell to ward off the shadows of depression and anxiety, brightening my world view like a burst of light in a dark dungeon. The sense of accomplishment and progress, akin to completing a challenging quest, provided a surge of endorphins, the body's natural mood boosters.
              • Even on days that I don't want to work out, I work out. Something. Anything. Honestly, I always feel better after a workout, especially if I end on a cardio finisher that's really tough. A great sense of accomplishment can carry you through an adventure.
            4. Increased Energy – Refilling the Mana Pool:

              • My energy levels saw a dramatic surge, similar to a mage refilling their mana pool. Daily tasks that once felt like a grind were now manageable, even enjoyable. It’s like having a constant buff, enhancing my stamina and vitality.
            5. Social Connections – Joining a Party Guild:

              • Perhaps one of the most unexpected benefits was the social aspect. The gym became my guildhall, a place to meet fellow adventurers on similar quests. We shared tips, encouragement, and the kind of camaraderie you find in an online gaming community, but in the real world.

            In this quest of strength training, the rewards were multifaceted, impacting every aspect of my life. It was as if I had unlocked a secret level, one that offered a richer, fuller experience, not just in the gym but in the world at large.


            The evidence is clear; integrating strength training into our routine as we age isn't just beneficial—it's essential. It's about embracing a healthier, more vibrant future. Strength training isn't just lifting weights; it's lifting ourselves into a better quality of life at any age. So, start your adventure today!

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            1 comment

            Well told, Ser.

            Amanda Bee

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