Am I too old to go to the gym?

Fitness, Seniors
dumbbells for gym

Sadly, it seems that many people feel that they are too old to go to the gym. According to a survey, conducted on behalf of the fitness app Freeletics, two out of every five respondents (40%) thought they were too old to go to the gym. The survey of 2,000 adults found that on average the cut off point was 41 years old.  People who were older than 41 usually felt they were too old to go to the gym.

I find this very distressing. The evidence is that as you get older you need to go to the gym more.  After age 30, you begin to lose as much as 3% to 5% muscle per decade, if you don’t do weight-bearing exercises. Less muscle means greater weakness and less mobility, both of which may increase your risk of falls and fractures.

One in three adults aged 50 and over dies within 12 months of suffering a hip fracture. In the US, an older person dies from falling every 19 minutes.

The NHS says:

“Physical activity and exercise can help you stay healthy, energetic and independent as you get older. Many adults aged 65 and over spend, on average, 10 hours or more each day sitting or lying down, making them the most sedentary age group. They’re paying a high price for their inactivity, with higher rates of falls, obesity, heart disease and early death compared with the general population.”

The older you are the more you need to lift weights. You can do this at home or in the gym. Being older is a reason to go to the gym, not a reason to avoid the gym.

An article in the Postgraduate Medical Journal says:

“Worldwide, around 3.2 million deaths per year are being attributed to inactivity. In industrialised countries where people are living longer lives, the levels of chronic health conditions are increasing and the levels of physical activity are declining. Key factors in improving health are exercising at a moderate-to-vigorous level for at least 5 days per week and including both aerobic and strengthening exercises.”

Alicia I. Arbaje, MD, MPH, assistant professor of Geriatrics and Gerontology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. says:

“A lot of the symptoms that we associate with old age — such as weakness and loss of balance — are actually symptoms of inactivity, not age.”

A study bu the European Society of Cardiology found that it is never too late to get active. They reviewed people with an average age of 62 that were followed up for on average 7 years.

The researchers examined the risks of all-cause death and death from cardiovascular disease according to the four groups. Compared to patients who were inactive over time, the risk of all-cause death was 50% lower in those who were active over time, 45% lower in those who were inactive but became active, and 20% lower in those who had been active but became inactive.

Similar results were observed for death due to cardiovascular disease. Compared to those who remained inactive, the risk for cardiovascular mortality was 51% lower among those who remained active and 27% lower for those whose activity increased. Cardiovascular mortality was not statistically different for those whose activity decreased over time, compared to those who remained inactive.

Excuses not reasons for taking exercise

People make all sorts of excuses for not going to the gym. For many people these are excuses and not reasons. Many people who are sure they are too old to go to the gym have never been inside a gym to find out if it is true. It’s a convenient excuse. This research suggests that if you tell people you are too old to go to the gym, many of them will agree with you. That doesn’t mean you are right. Even if you have back pain, most authorities recommend that you can still be active and go to the gym. Read my blog on back pain and exercise.

Why go to the gym and workout, when you could sit at home dozing in front of the TV or watching a film on Netflix? I go to the gym to keep my body as strong as possible. I go to the gym because I enjoy it. I also enjoy the camaraderie of the people who go at the same time as me. I started out by just saying “hello”, but over time the friendships have developed. We talk about our training, (and sometimes about our work or love lives). We encourage each other. We are all shapes and sizes and ages. Some of us are much older than 41. Some of us are overweight or obese. Some of us have high-powered jobs. Some are retired. Some are at college. We are bound together by our desire to improve ourselves.

Fitness is not about being better than someone else… It’s about being better than you used to be.

Khloe Kardashian

Of course, you can go to the gym, wear headphones and speak to no-one. The choice is yours. Let that be your choice, not whether or not you go to the gym.

Take a look at Joan Macdonald’s Instagram feed. She has over 700K followers.  She says:

“You can’t turn back the clock but you can wind it up again!”

The NHS also says:

“There’s strong evidence that people who are active have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression and dementia. If you want to stay pain-free, reduce your risk of mental illness, and be able to go out and stay independent well into old age, you’re advised to keep moving.”

If you want to exercise, but really don’t want to go to the gym, check out my review of these home exercise videos.