Growing older can mean that some of the things you did when younger aren’t quite as possible anymore.
When it comes to exercising, does that mean that certain fundamental movements, such as push-ups and sit-ups, are verboten? Are there certain types of exercises you should just never do again?
According to a recent article* that was floating around the interwebs, the answer would seem to be yes. On the list of exercises that someone over 50 shouldn’t do were weighted squats, high-intensity interval training, pushups, and burpees (among others). The rationale was that once you’ve reached that magical age, you are no longer able to perform these actions without irreparable harm to life and limb.
While the author’s concern for the elderly is admirable, is an outright ban on these actions justified?
Frankly, no. While the article does note that if you have medical issues you shouldn’t do these activities, it’s far too broad and ill-defined.
Unless you have injuries or certain medical issues that preclude you from certain actions, there is no reason a 50, 60, or 70-year-old can’t do these activities.
The athletic needs of a young athlete and a senior athlete differ only by degree, not kind. Sure, an older person may not be able to lift as heavy as a 22-year-old college athlete, but a 50-year-old is just as capable of squatting with weight successfully and with the same benefits.
Any person, no matter the age, without proper instruction has the potential to injure themselves. That’s why we make sure athletes are instructed on how to do each of these movements properly, and progressions are provided to anybody who isn't getting the components exactly right. But again, that goes for any exercise and anybody, regardless of age.
Let’s take the deadlift for example: This movement is fundamental for healthy living; it's how we pick stuff off the ground. If you’ve given up deadlifting, you've essentially declared yourself physically incompetent. It doesn’t have to be 500 pounds and every vein in your forehead popping out to be effective. Everybody should be practicing deadlifts, in some form or another, modifying as necessary to accommodate for restrictions or injuries. Same with squats, even with weight. As with most anything in life, use common sense when progressing upward.
Obviously, a person of any age should speak with a medical professional before beginning any strenuous exercise program. If you’ve been cleared to participate a good coach is going to instruct you on proper form and communicate with you as to your progress through each movement, monitoring and correcting your technique, and helping you make decisions on your progression.
*Editor’s Note: The original article was edited and no longer forbids these movements. We’re excited to see that so many people understand the benefits of lifting weights - at ANY age!