Like most women of her generation, Margaret Cone, now 79, never saw much reason to lift weights.
She had always been pretty active and tried to stay in decent shape. Her family had a strong health history.
But about 10 years ago, Margaret noticed she had gained weight from the long hours she was putting in at her sedentary job. And to make things worse, her doctor diagnosed her with high blood pressure.
Margaret did not take this news passively. She wasn’t going to rely on medication, and she went looking for information about other ways to treat the condition.
“I started reading about weightlifting, and I had never tried that before,” she recalls. “But I thought, ‘I’ll try anything.’ To my surprise – and everyone else’s – I could really do it.
“Without even trying, I lost 25 pounds. I felt better than I ever had in my life.”
Her blood pressure is in control, and Margaret remains a passionate lifter – working out twice a week with her trainer. It even helps her enjoy gardening more and lets her wield a chainsaw to keep her limbs to county regulation.
Yes, this 79-year-old woman confidently uses a chainsaw in her yard. She even has a little swagger about it, noting that the neighbors always wonder what she’s up to.
“It’s sort of a vanity thing,” she admits. “Look what I can still do.”
Resistance Training Is Crucial to Healthy Living as We Age
Margaret’s story is so important because it can remind people and educate others about an important fact: Resistance training is key to healthy aging.
As Margaret shows, it helps lower blood pressure, maintain weight, increase functional fitness and boost confidence in daily living.
Studies also show these reasons why everyone should be lifting weights. (Here’s a secret: You can call it “resistance training” if it makes you feel better.)
- It slows age-related muscle loss and increases muscle mass and quality. We all lose muscle as we age, but we need it to stay strong enough to function in daily activities, not to mention to travel, enjoy sports, and play with grandkids.
- Resistance training burns fat. Think it’s all about cardio? Wrong. So many people want to lose weight, and if you’re one of them, then you need to be lifting.
- Weight training improves balance — both when standing still and when moving, thus lowering the risk of falls.
- It eases arthritis pain.
- Strength training builds bones and fights osteoporosis. This is an extra motivation for women, who lose a small percentage of bone mass each year after menopause.
- It fights depression among older adults – plus dementia and the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
- Weightlifting helps you sleep better.
And, to bust a persistent myth about strength training, it will not make you immediately “bulk up” like the Incredible Hulk.
Just ask Margaret or any of the other women we know who swear by it.
“I say go for it,” she says. “I wish I had known about this earlier.”
Holly Kouvo is a personal trainer, functional aging specialist, senior fitness specialist, brain health trainer, writer, and speaker.