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AtA: Resistance Training with Age and Health Concerns

Posted June 28th, 2010 in Ask the Author and tagged , , , , , by Clint

My mom is interested in following your plan, but she is hesitant about weight lifting. She is almost 60 and overweight and diabetic with a bad back, so she doesn’t want to strain herself in ways that could injure her back further. Any suggestions for easing into it?

Well, bear in mind not only am I not a doctor, I am not her doctor. However, it’s often revealing to note how many ‘bad backs’ originate from sitting too much, an ill-fit bed, or just general weakness in the back (which are all discussed as things to improve in the book). General weakness especially seems to come up with an absurd frequency (and in other areas of the body as well) as it’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy: if a back’s weak, you favor it and try to never put any weight or stress on it, which makes it weaker, which makes it more likely to be stressed or injured, etc.

I would recommend she keep in contact with her physician, provided her doctor supports her rehabbing her bones/musculature/back and getting to a more reasonable weight and level of physical fitness (I can’t abide doctors who encourage victim mentalities). For her first few sessions, have her work her way in with lighter weight to learn the movements and pre-condition her body by performing them. Once she feels confident in her ability to execute them properly, then start incrementally but generously adding weight based on the guidelines in the book. If she can do 6+ reps with a weight, for the next set give her more weight. And go on from there.

Don’t let her fret about lifting “too heavy”; older people, women, and those who have been chronically ill or injured are all prime candidates for excessive timidity about increasing body strength. You can help her by reinforcing the idea that some day (obviously not instantly, but in the foreseeable future) it’s entirely likely she should be able to throw you over her back in a fireman’s carry and squat you. If she has a hard time imagining that, ask her if she’d do it if your life depended on it. Assuming she says yes, then that’s a goal you can both work toward (and is fairly realistic one, assuming she’s an otherwise normal human female, approaching 60 and currently overweight. I imagine she’ll be surprised what she may actually end up capable of doing).

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