While many studies have touted the health benefits of physical exercise for adults at any age, the American College of Sports Medicine has recommended that adults ages 50 and up should partake in weight training as part of their physical exercise program as a part of healthy aging. (1) “Weightlifting has long been overlooked as an integral part of healthy aging,” says Robert Drapkin, MD, board certified physician in Internal Medicine, Medical Oncology and Palliative Care. While many elderly adults partake in regular physical exercise, Dr. Drapkin urges seniors to incorporate weightlifting into their physical fitness regime. Per Dr. Drapkin, weightlifting can help prevent osteoporosis, increase bone density and improve cognitive functions.
A 2009 study of healthy seniors over the age of 65 found that those who engaged in physical exercise four to five times a week showed 54% of the heart benefits found in “master” athletes. The health benefits linked to regular exercise are many and include prevention of aging related diseases including heart disease, diabetes, asthma, back pain, joint pain, and cardiovascular disease. (2) “Regular exercise can lessen the symptoms of diseases that are already present and prevent those diseases from getting worse,” says Dr. Drapkin.
Weightlifting, also known as strength training, can be beneficial for elderly adults who are well into their 90s. After just eight weeks of weightlifting, a group comprised of seniors ages 87 to 96 improved their muscle strength by nearly 180%. (1) An elderly woman was able to lessen her risk of hip fractures by over 40% through working out four hours a week, per a 2002 study. (3)
Falls are a leading cause of death in adults over the age of 65. (3) “Regular exercise helps reduce the risk of falling by building balance and flexibility,” says Dr. Drapkin. “However, weightlifting has its own unique benefits and can aid in the prevention of falls.” Weightlifting has been proven to improve muscle strength and balance; (3) additionally, weightlifting can make it easier to do daily activities and improves walking ability, as it builds endurance. A University of Vermont study found that after 12 weeks of weightlifting, a group of healthy seniors ages 65 to 79 were able to walk almost 40% farther. (1)
Dr. Drapkin cautions that seniors should take care to learn how to use machines and techniques correctly, as they may not be familiar with the equipment. “Safety is paramount,” says Dr. Drapkin. “Weightlifting can prevent injuries; however, we want to avoid causing them by using too much weight or moving incorrectly. It’s important to work with a professional in order to learn proper form.”
Dr. Drapkin has spent his career dedicated to reversing the ailments and stigmas of the elderly. In addition to his traditional medical training and practice, he has decades of experience, research and study in the fields of diet and exercise that have proven very beneficial in helping patients treat and prevent an array of medical conditions, as well as helped many to lead happier, healthier and more active lives.
Inspired by his own unhealthy habits and his sick patients, Dr. Drapkin began his bodybuilding career well after the age of 40. Now, at 71, Dr. Drapkin is an active world-class bodybuilder. Dr. Drapkin began bodybuilding to help improve his quality of life as he grew older and in order to debunk myths regarding elderly fitness through example. Dr. Drapkin has found that his knowledge and expertise in the medical field and weight-lifting field has greatly benefited his patients.
About Dr. Robert Drapkin MD FACP:
Robert Drapkin, MD, is a healthcare provider who is board-certified in Internal Medicine, Medical Oncology and Palliative Care. He is in active practice, working to save lives and improve quality of life through the education of his patients. He provides up-to-date knowledge and guides his patients through their illnesses, exercises and diets. He has been in active medicine practice for over 36 years. Dr. Drapkin is currently 71 years old, and started training as a body builder when he was in his fifties. He has been a competitive body builder for 17 years, and has won many titles and contests. He is currently in training for a national event in July, 2016. For more information, visit http://drrobertmdfacp.com/.
(1) Woolston, Chris. “Seniors and Weightlifting: Never Too Late”; Health Day; March 11, 2015. consumer.healthday.com/encyclopedia/aging-1/misc-aging-news-10/seniors-and-weightlifting-never-too-late-647213.html
(2) Woolston, Chris. “Heart Disease and Exercise”; Health Day; March 11, 2015. consumer.healthday.com/encyclopedia/exercise-and-fitness-18/misc-health-news-265/heart-disease-and-exercise-647136.html
(3) “Physical Activity”; New York Times; June 17, 2013. nytimes.com/health/guides/specialtopic/physical-activity/exercise’s-effects-on-bones-and-muscles.html