The 30 Year Challenge

picture of old man lifting weights

How many of you know someone in their eighties or nineties who is strong and healthy.  I’m not talking about the person who “keeps moving” – the ones who walk the mall or go golfing every day.  I’m talking about a 90 year old man who can bench press more than half his body weight and lift and carry fifty pounds of bird seed from the car to the garage.  Or an 85 year old woman who can put her own forty pound piece of luggage on the airport scale and jog up the stairs at home with a basket full of laundry.   Is it even possible for old people to do those things?  I think so and I intend to prove it with my own 30 year challenge.

Many of you might say – “Who cares if you can’t do those things?” “You’ve earned the right to relax after the hectic life you’ve led.”   If those are your beliefs, you’ll be in the same condition as all the older folks that I’ve known.  As they got older, they didn’t keep their strength up, so their muscles atrophied and soon they couldn’t do as much as before so their muscles atrophied even more and so on.  Pretty soon, they joined the ranks of their peers and slowly became weak and feeble.  I don’t have an example of anyone I know personally who didn’t end up in that state.

I told my dad once, that if he didn’t keep his body strong and healthy it wouldn’t mean he would die earlier. He would just end up couch-bound and frail.  He lived to be just short of 99 years old.  He just couldn’t do anything the last two years.

There are other real benefits from lifting weights, particularly for women .  Here is an article from WebMD about weight resistance training and osteoporosis:

Living with Osteoporosis

Written by Gina Shaw

Reviewed by: Brunilda Nazario, MD January 21, 2009


Did you know that weight training for osteoporosis – not just walking or doing aerobics, but lifting weights – can help protect your bones and prevent osteoporosis-related fractures?

In one study, postmenopausal women who participated in a strength training program for a year saw significant increases in their bone density in the spine and hips, areas affected most by osteoporosis in older women.

Maintaining strong muscles through weight training helps to keep up your balance and coordination – a critical element in preventing falls, which can lead to osteoporosis-related fractures.

“We lose so much muscle as we age that by the time we’re 70, we only have about 50% to 55% of our muscle mass left,” says Beatrice Edwards, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine and director of the Bone Health and Osteoporosis Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “That explains why we feel weak and tired as we age, and we can prevent some of that with weight training.”

The benefits that women experience with weight training are also realized by men.

Right now, I easily carry 170 pounds of body weight as I go up a flight of stairs.  If I continue to walk up stairs every day or at least a couple times per week, is there any reason why I wouldn’t be able to walk up a flight of stairs when I’m ninety years old?  Right now, I bench press 225 pounds.  If I lift 225 pounds two times per week from now on, is there any reason why I wouldn’t be able to lift 225 pounds when I’m 85 years old?  Unless I hurt myself, I don’t see any reason why I couldn’t.

I asked my doctor this:  “Assuming I have enough testosterone, could I maintain and even build muscle into my eighties or nineties?”  He said yes.  Of course, the big question is whether I have enough testosterone.  Researchers agree that weight resistance training gives a person a temporary boost in testosterone.  That benefit and a diet rich in muscle building protein will help in maintaining a strong body going into my Golden years.

Do you even care?  I’ve talked to a lot of people who say that they don’t want to live into their nineties.  They see the old worn out bodies struggling to do daily tasks – bodies that slowly devolve into little people who can’t move anymore.  But they’re still alive.  Unless you “Off” yourself, you’re going to be old whether you want to be or not.  How will you feel then, when your weak, underused body betrays you, unnecessarily, more and more with each passing year?

I’m doing my own personal 30 year challenge.  I’ve already been on a high-protein diet and I started lifting weights regularly.  I want to be stronger than I am now, so I have a running start going into the years when others start to falter. I love it and I always have.  That’s an advantage that I have over those who would struggle to maintain their motivation to stay strong for such a long time.  Even if you’re successful only 80 percent of the time at lifting heavy things, it’s better than what most of us do now.

I hope you join me in this challenge.  You can get information about doing everything you need to with just a good set of dumbbells.  If, after 30 years we’re not as strong as we expected, we haven’t lost a thing, but if we are successful, you and I can join the local rugby team like we’ve always wanted to do when we’re 88 year old and kick butt.  How cool would that be?



5 thoughts on “The 30 Year Challenge

  1. I know a marathon runner who regularly ran marathon’s at less than 3 hours into his seventies. Something happened so he gave up marathons and only runs halfs now but I still see him out running all the time. It does make sense that if you ran 8 miles (like he does) everyday why one day would you not be able to do it?

    • You see my point. I do think that marathon runners would do themselves a great service if they added weight resistance training. Their legs may experience bone density improvements with running, but the breakable wrists and arms of a older runner probably won’t be any better off than the average person.

  2. Yo Dad,
    Good to know you’ll be strong and capable 20 years from now so I won’t have to be helping you in and out of a wheel chair when we go out for donuts.
    In the last 3 months I have taken up strength/interval training. It has helped greatly with my middle aged lady symptoms and I also intend to be as strong as possible as I age.
    Work on your balance too! Even for 15 minutes daily do some stretching and hold a plank for one minute.
    I really hope the rapture happens before I’m 90 though!

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