Use It Or Lose It – How To Stay Strong And Vital In Your Golden Years


Hmm…use it or lose it. I was actually thrashing this article around in my head for what amounted to several brain-frozen days before I could ‘put-pen-to-paper’, or in my case, before I could ‘put-clumsy-sausage-sized-fingers-to-keyboard-that-needs-a-serious-clean…

use it or lose it

Free-weights are for EVERYONE and ANYONE…Young and old!

…what I mean is, i really wasn’t sure how to write this without insulting anybody of the older-adult community. Yes OK, old farts just like myself…whatever!

Anyway, I stopped the procrastination, took the bull by the horns, stayed true to myself and simply stuck to the truth of my “strength training” issue. And although this article is specifically directed at the, let’s say, “maturer generation”, it’s also fully applicable to the younger and even the very young…this simple old adage most definitely applies:

“Use It Or Lose It!”


Dr. Walter Bortz, MD, says this:

“Almost everything we have been taught about aging is wrong…We now know that a very fit body of 70 can be the same as a moderately fit body of 30.”

I fully agree and further say:

“Strength training is definitely not restricted solely to the domain of the young. Many of our more senior men and women are reaping the benefits of hitting the weights and retaining their strength and vitality, well into their old age!”

And i absolutely practise what I preach. For a minimum 3 days per week, usually 6 or even 7 days, I work-out for 30 to 40 minutes or so, using nothing but a cheap exercise mat and an old set of free-weights – a small set of simple dumb-bells.

I’m proud to say that at almost 55 years of age (at the time of writing this), I’m as strong and as energetic as a lot of people I know who are half my age.

Hey, I’m not talking about the fanatical muscle-headed, ‘that-guys-got-bigger-biceps-than-my-thighs’ or ‘there’s-no-breasts-left-on-that-chick’, 30-hours-every-day-in-the-gym, check-out-my-abs, iron-pumping body-building (phew). No, I’m talking about basic strength training that keeps you toned and tight and in physically good shape well into your old age.

The Core Problem

Sorry to have to tell you this but growing older is totally inevitable and unavoidable. Que sera. Such is life and hohum!

use it or lose it

“Using it” well into his 60’s!

And nature dictates that we must slow down a little and mellow out. For many people though, growing older is much worse and is all about what they (incorrectly) believe is inevitable i.e. complete loss of strength and vitality proved by the fact that they can’t walk far or carry anything heavier than a small bag of groceries…

…they lose it because they don’t use it!

Because they live according to the strange, but accepted, notion that they’re SUPPOSED to get weak and frail.

Because that’s what society (especially the young) EXPECTS of them.

Complete and utter bollox…nothing could be further from the truth.

Unless you suffer from a seriously debilitating illness or disease – in which case you should certainly seek medical advice prior to starting any type of exercise program, then there’s absolutely nothing to stop any of you “seniors” from staying as strong and as energetic as you can possibly be.

Loss of strength and vitality as you age is due to loss of muscle mass and muscle tone, bone strength and suppleness. Due to one simple reason…laziness…simple..!

You just have to think and remember that when we’re young, as normal healthy men and women, we all walk, run, jump, play sport, climb, lift and move stuff. at work and at play. We’re active, we’re strong, energetic and chock-full of vitality.

It’s the “vitality-circle” of life, the more you do, the stronger and more energetic you become, the more you do!

Use It

Then time, life and peer-pressure or social expectancy take their toll. There’s less physical exertion, less walking, less lifting and carrying, (much) more sitting on our butt for (much) longer periods of time. This is the “lazy-circle” of life. The more you don’t do, the weaker and less energetic you become, the more you don’t do!

or Lose It

Of course that being said, I’d just like to point out at this point, in defense of us ‘mature’ persons, that being lazy isn’t the sole domain of the elderly. Sadly, in the modern era of satellite TV, the .WWW, the likes of Play Station or X-Box and convenient junk foods, the ‘lazy-bug’ is also taking it’s toll on our modern-day young.

So beware youngster, use it or lose it. You’re gonna get old way before your time if you keep up that “junk” lifestyle!

All The Positives

It’s been agreed and proven (a long time ago), that just a few regular short sessions – as little as twice per week, of light strength-training exercises coupled with a little bit of gentle yoga or stretching is extremely effective and super-beneficial as you get older.

use it or lose it

This sweet old lady is in her her 80’s!

You could be a geriatric Super-Man, or Super-Woman. Well at least you’d FEEL like one anyway!

I’m talking about the type of exercise that’s perfectly effective for men and women of all ages, and when carried out regularly and of course correctly, strengthens bones as well as muscle.

Which subsequently maintains strength, energy, overall vitality, mobility and balance, and the most important thing as you get older, your independence!

It gets even more positive yet. Strength training can (and often does), very effectively reduce the aches, pains and uncomfortable conditions of many different ailments:

  • Back pain (been there, done that!). It strengthens back and abdominal muscles for the good of your spine. I swear, i know this via first-hand experience.
  • Osteoporosis. Helps to maintain and/or increase bone density for improved posture and stability.
  • Arthritis. Reduces stiffness and pain leading to increased flexibility.
  • Diabetes. Improves blood oxygenation for improved glycemic control.
  • Excess weight. Excess fat is burned and replaced with muscle as your metabolism increases.
  • Depression (been there, done that too!). The act of ‘doing’ and then seeing the results in a fairly short time-period, boosts self-esteem and improves the mindset.
How? The Basics

My single, most important piece of advice for you here, is this:

“One small step at a time!”

If you haven’t used weights before, or it’s been a long time since you have, then you need to begin very slow and very light. Then gradually build up as the weeks go by. Just trust me when I tell you that in this case, patience really is a virtue.

If you go full tilt at this too soon, without mastering the movements and/or the breathing techniques, man you are going to hurt…in places you never thought you could hurt!

I know…been there, done that too!

Oh and by the way, ‘free-weights’ are by far the best thing to use, rather than the “multi-gym” machine type of devices that you’ll commonly find at most gyms these days. If you go to a gym just look around at the serious weight trainers and you’ll notice they use very few of the machines compared to the available free-weights.


There are many schools of thought regarding the actual methodology i.e. the movement per muscle or the set and the amount of rep’s or ‘repetitions’, that you need to do to for maximum benefit. You really need to check around and find out what suits you and what is the most comfortable for you.

use it or lose it

In his late 70’s and still “using it”!

But remember not to be too comfortable. You need to put in some effort, get some sweat running down the crack of your arse (gross..!) and ache a little after you finish.

The methodology i employ for something i’ve developed over a good many years of trial, error and practise.

It’s fairly simple but very effective and I’ve taught it to others to great effect.

And yep, that includes much older people and people with negative health conditions. It hasn’t failed to impress yet!

I don’t use fancy machines or methods, just a small set of dumb-bells while dressed in my rattiest t-shirt, shorts and training shoes. Maybe some track-suit pants in winter and usually no shoes at all during summer. I do it all in the comfort of my own home.

When and Where?

You may, at least at first, need the guidance of a personal trainer or a friend or a help group at your local gym. For me these days, I prefer exercising first thing in the morning, in solitude while listening to music or some news on the radio. I tend to use the time to reflect on what I need to achieve during the course of the coming day.

If you’re going to employ the use of a ‘personal trainer’ or someone of that ilk, be careful. A well-meaning, but inept, personal trainer or guide could hurt you just as easily as you could hurt yourself.

I’m not going to go into my exact methodology here because although I know it as simple, it would still take a whole heap of detailed explaining and lots of writing as well as a whole pile of appropriate pictures etc., so you could see exact examples. That’s all information for another day or maybe even for the full course that I intend creating in the not-too-distant future…we’ll see!

Suffice to say, just get out there and look around. Try a few different things until you find the method that suits you. Don’t be in a rush to get “buff” and remember, this is like any other pastime…practise makes perfect!


It isn’t everybody’s ‘cup-o-tea’ because it takes a bit of effort. Whic is just fine and understood. It’s your life and you must do whatever ‘blows your hair back’… BUT… no matter your age, you really should be making strength training a regular habit so that you maintain your strength, your vitality and your independence, for the longest possible time.

For the massive benefits it can provide you, it actually takes up surprisingly little time, an average 30 minutes a couple of times a week is all you need. Honestly, how many hours do you really need to spend in front of the TV or on Facebook?

* * *

Before you sign off, how about this amusing little ditty by Kenn Nesbitt:

I went to the gym.
I lifted a weight.
My muscles got bigger.
It felt really great.

I hoisted another,
a heavier one.
I got even stronger.
I thought it was fun.

I wandered outside where
I bent a steel bar.
I pulled up a park bench
and carried a car.

I picked up a truck
and then set out to try
to boost a big building
I spotted nearby.

So now I’m in jail, with
my muscles to thank.
I probably shouldn’t have
held up that bank.

* * *

Carpe Diem, Be All You Should Be

Peter EC Kirwan


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