Lifting weights might sound like you're on the path to looking like actor Arnold Schwarzenegger or Ernestine Shepherd, a former Guinness Book of World Records' oldest female body builder.
But Jennifer McNamara, a Strength for Life participant and instructor, has an educated insight into what really happens.
"You just lose body fat and you gain muscle; isn't that what we all want?" she said.
"There is no way that a woman is going to be able to get big without taking steroids, and particularly when you're older, the chances are even less."
Compound exercises - exercises that involve multiple muscles at the same time - are particularly good when lifting weights.
"It feels so good (to lift weights). You get so much benefit from just doing a deadlift or a military press; you get so much bang for your buck and they work all the muscles in your body. And you can walk tall and lift things. It does so much for you, it's like 'why wouldn't you?'," she said.
"The other great thing about lifting weights, especially the heaver weights, is you don't have to lift many of them (i.e. have fewer repetitions of a certain move), and you have a break in between. You do a lift and then you rest for a minute or so. You don't have to put in a lot of effort to get a lot of output."
In 2019, Jennifer, of Woodville South in Adelaide, was working as a disability support worker when she started participating in Strength for Life classes at Viva Fitness at Kidman Park, which inspired her to change jobs and become an instructor herself.
"We have people at Viva who are in their 80s and are fit, active, are here every day, are social and they're loving life. They're the ones who inspired me and made me think 'I want to be like them'," she said.
Jennifer is one of several Strength for Life instructors who completed their training in 2022, acquiring a Certificate III in Fitness as part of the process. Run by Council of the Ageing, Strength for Life is a progressive strength training program designed to improve a participant's strength, balance, coordination, endurance and mobility. Each participant has their own personalised program while a supervisor watches over.
The program is offered in SA, ACT and WA, while similar programs are offered in NSW, VIC and TAS (Living Longer Living Stronger), and NT (Fit for Life).
"For me, I have become passionate about getting older people to lift weights and avoid diseases, keep mobile and make friendships. I think its a positive thing to do," Jennifer said.
"A lot of people think when you get older, you're supposed to sit around and deteriorate. I think that's such a poor way of thinking."
As a Strength for Life participant, Jennifer likes the structure of it.
"At my gym we do a 20 minute warmup, then 20-30 minutes in the gym, and then we do a 20 minute stretch," she said.
"I thought as an exercise regime, it's very well balanced. Then there's the social side - it's a supportive environment. And then there's the individual program."
One of the skills she learned through her training was how to manage each class.
"Don't underestimate people just because of their age. If you try to raise people up, they try to raise themselves up. You can then quickly see the variation in skillsets and adapt your approach to be somewhere in the middle," she said.
For more information about Strength for Life and its sister programs, visit their respective pages in each state and territory.
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