I had to share this story. I can only hope that I am still ROCKIN my fitness at that age!
Willie Murphy is redefining what it means to be a senior. Why aren’t more older adults following suit? (ipowerlift.net)
In his prime, Arnold Schwarzenegger could deadlift 710 pounds. Willie Murphy can deadlift 215 pounds — more than a quarter of Arnold’s max.
And she’s a 77-year-old grandmother.
At just 105 pounds, Murphy doesn’t exactly scream “meathead,” but she could probably put most of us to shame in the gym, cranking out one-handed pushups and pull-ups with ease, according to USA Today.
It all started with a weight-lifting competition at her local YMCA a few years ago. After an employee told her she could compete — “Go for it, granny” — Murphy began lifting 5-pound weights. Now she’s taking home trophies: Murphy recently came in first place in her division in the deadlift, power curl, bench press, and bench press repetition competitions at the WNPF World Championships.
She was also named the 2014 Lifter of the Year.
Back at her local gym, other exercisers have started asking to feel her biceps. One woman even called Murphy her idol. “They see I’m old and I’m not being pushed around in a wheelchair,” she told USA Today. “I can shovel my own snow. And I can push my car if it gets stuck in the snow…I’m almost 80 years old and I am still living life.”
It’s for this very reason that Wayne Phillips, research director for ActiveRX, a chain of active aging facilities, recommends strength training for older adults. “There’s sleep and diet and nutrition—all of that’s important,” he tells Yahoo Health. “But really, the foundation of our functional life is strength. Strength is the basis of quality of life and autonomy.” Translation: If you maintain your muscles as you age, you’ll be able to live independently for longer — that is, you’ll be shoveling your own sidewalk, just like Murphy can.
That’s in addition to all of the obvious health benefits of lifting weights, which range from improved mental health to lower blood pressure to stronger bones. Hitting the bench can also ward off what might seem like inevitable weight gain as you age: “When you lose muscle, your metabolism slows down,” says Wayne Westcott, an exercise scientist at Quincy College.
But that doesn’t have to happen just because you hit 60: “When you start strength training in your 60s, 70s, 80s, even 90s, you will add about one pound of muscle per month,” Westcott says. Since muscle is your calorie-burning engine, those gains translate to fat loss — no dieting required.
So why are so few older adults able to lift even half of what Murphy does? For starters, there’s a perception that, as we age, we should take it easy, which is why walking has become the favored form of exercise among the elderly, says Phillips. In fact, past a certain age, people may assume pumping iron is ineffective or even dangerous.
But the truth is, you can build muscle well into your golden years — a time when people are normally losing 10 to 15 percent of their muscle mass per decade. And it’s totally safe: “There are no side effects, except you get stronger, your balance improves, and your quality of life improves,” Phillips says.
Building strength may not require as much effort as you’d expect, either (unless, of course, you plan to give Murphy a run for her money). Phillips touts a technique called “single-set resistance training,” where you perform only one set of eight to 12 repetitions per exercise. “We know from the research that if you do one set, you get as much benefit as if you do two or three or four sets,” he says. At ActiveRX, he prescribes simple routines of only five or six exercises, totaling about half an hour of gym time.
How many days a week do you need to commit? Again, it may be less than you’d think. “We’ve found for building muscle and bone two days a week is essentially as good as three,” says Westcott. However, if you hope to blast fat or lower your BP, three days a week is ideal. Keep in mind, any more is overkill, since your body requires recovery time between lifting sessions.