Olympic weightlifting requires strength, speed, and explosive power. Vigorous physical activity such as Olympic weightlifting, for older adults has many benefits from improved strength, social interactions, and a healthy and independent lifestyle. Little is known about the training habits, health, and lifestyle of Masters weightlifters that includes top level athletes as well as beginners, and there is a dearth of data on women.
The primary aim was to describe demographics, training habits, and health including prevalence of injury and chronic disease in male and female Masters athletes in Olympic weightlifting. The secondary aim was to study gender differences and the age and impact of menopause on participation in the sport.
The 958 participants (46% men), ages 34 to 87, mostly train 3 to 4 days per week in 1 to 2 hour sessions. This is a highly educated and affluent group, 84% are white, 72% are married, 85% are post-secondary graduates. Exercise can also increase the risk of injury compared to less active older adults, but the rates of injury in weightlifting affecting training are lower than seen in other sports. The prevalence of depression and mental health is similar to a general population. Stress levels and sleep disturbances are more common among women than men. Women reach menopause at a similar age as women in industrialized countries, but menopausal symptoms constrained the training.
Older athletes are capable of rigorous training programs and top performances while adjusting to changes due to biological aging. Weightlifting athletes, coaches, and health professionals must be aware of patterns of injuries and gender differences to incorporate successful prevention strategies. Knowledge of presentations of menopause and impact of menopausal symptoms on training allows women and health care providers to make informed treatment decisions.