Body and Mind

Ramp up your strength and resistance training year on year

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The good news is if you’ve never been for a run in your life, there is no need to take it up now*. Strength or resistance training is what’s hot for mature adults like you and I, along with promises that it will bring about positive changes in our senior years.

From the moment we splutter and blow out three decades worth of birthday candles, we start losing muscle mass. Maintaining a health muscle mass becomes harder as we age, and at the same time, increasingly important for our overall health and wellbeing.

There have been several studies supporting ‘frailty’ or low muscle mass as a predictor of needing aged care support.  Research has also suggested that there is a link between muscle strength, Alzheimers and cognitive decline in older people.

A 2016 University of Sydney led study – the Study of Mental and Resistance Training (SMART) – showed a positive link between strengthening muscle through resistance training and brain function in people over 55 with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI).

So let’s get physical. Here’s how to start increasing your muscle mass, and tap into all the benefits that brings.

*Okay, well actually provided your joints are in good health and your GP is in support, running is a fantastic way to improve your cardio fitness.

Why should we bother with building or strengthening our muscles?

Here’s a short list of why strengthening our muscle tissue is good for us. More muscle mass means:

  • a better metabolic rate, so we can enjoy eating and drinking more without worrying about gaining fat
  • increased oxygen flowing through our body benefits our heart and arteries, and all our organs
  • better protection of our body’s overall physiology, helping prevent injury
  • an easier, more independent lifestyle in that we can carry heavier objects and minimise injury
  • better cognitive health
  • improved bone density and bone strength
  • improved posture
  • we look and feel stronger and healthier.

What types of resistance or strength training will help improve my overall health?

High intensity resistance training (HIRT) is reported as being one of the best ways to improve and build your muscular health, efficiently.

What is HIRT?  Old-school weight training involved lifting 80% or more of the maximum weight you can lift, repetitively and then taking a good minute’s rest. In short HIRT takes out the breaks.

The good news is, just a fifteen to twenty minute session of HIRT or HIIT at least three times per week is suggested as being ample to strengthen your body and improve your overall fitness.

Other types of resistance or muscle strengthening training that our ageing bodies will benefit from include:

  • Yoga – in any of its numerous forms
  • Pilates – where you either use your own body weight, or pilates apparatus for resistance
  • Hybrid pilates and yoga classes
  • Gym circuits using weight machines
  • Medicine ball workouts
  • Free weights training
  • Classes that use repetition of weight based training such as ‘Pump’
  • Swimming or aqua aerobics
  • Resistance training classes using resistance bands or other resistance apparatus.

How do I get my strength training plan started?

You’re either someone who is self-motivated, or your simply not.

If you’re the self-motivated type, all you need to do is set yourself some clear goals, do some research on local resistance training options, and then book it in to your calendar.

If, like most of us, you’d rather sleep in than drag yourself out of bed early for a Pump class, here are some tips to get your training plan on track:

  • Recruit a friend, or a group of friends to join your mission to get stronger
  • Research your local gymnasiums and recreation centres to find a program that works well for you
  • Explore the option of a month’s free trial. A freebie can be a great way to find that motivation.
  • Book in a chat with a gym consultant and sign yourself up for a six month or twelve month membership.
  • Start with some free weights, resistance bands and a strength training app or video at home. Schedule three twenty minute sessions into your diary, and make a commitment to yourself to stick to your plan.

There are loads of free downloadable resistance training apps to explore. Simply go to Google Play store or Apple iTunes and search ‘resistance training apps’. Most apps will give you a preview before you download.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you can achieve in your bedroom, living room or the garage!

Author: Julie Pearce



  1. Veronica Eldridge

    You forgot to mention how expensive Gym
    or attending class can be most older people don’t have spare cash for these activities.
    Somewhere like the Y
    which has older people in mind.

  2. Rachael Redhead

    I attend a private class once. Week. Cost? $8.00. The best value for money ever. I don’t always want to turn up on a cold Monday morning but I know it’s for my own benefit. Have been doing it for 20 years and it’s an important part of my life. Your local council should have a list of classes for older people. Singing is another wonderful exercise. Good for the brain, your lungs and uses a lot of muscles. Plenty of singing groups around too. U3 A is a good source of cheap activities.

  3. Julie Pearce

    Thank you Veronica. Yes, in fact I’ve just looked into one myself and decided that it was well outside my budget. However, I know in our local area that the Shire Council and community groups often collaborate to offer classes for seniors. Check out your local shire council website events pages, or even your local library noticeboard. There are a lot of free online strength training workouts available too, but always check with your GP first before undertaking any new exercise program.

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