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Strength Training for Older Adults

Updated September 16, 2019
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Hope Kleine

SDSU Extension Health Education & Food Safety Field Specialist

As one ages, they may experience physiological and functional declines that are associated with the loss of muscle mass and muscle function. They may lose some of their strength and vigor. Walking certain distances and performing daily activities can become difficult as well. Along with the increased risk of developing sarcopenia, aging also leads to an increased risk of fragility and falling. Research is currently showing that there are preventative measures one can take to ward off unintentional muscle loss and decrease pain or symptoms that may be occurring because of age.

Health Benefits

Strength training or weightlifting has been proven helpful for the prevention of muscle mass loss and function. Strength training is an activity that works to keep muscles strong and can be safe for both men and women of all ages. Adding in this activity to your routine 2-3 days per week will build muscle strength, muscle mass, preserve bone density, maintain independence, and vitality with age.1 It will also reduce the risk of osteoporosis and signs of other chronic diseases, improve sleep, and reduce depression.1

According to the CDC, weight training has the following effects on certain chronic diseases.

  • Arthritis: Reduction in pain and stiffness; increased strength and flexibility.
  • Diabetes: Improvements in glycemic control.
  • Osteoporosis: Reduced risk for falls, increased bone density.
  • Heart Disease: Improvements in lipid profile, overall fitness leading to reduced cardiovascular risk.
  • Obesity: Decreased long-term risk because of increased metabolism.
  • Back Pain: Back and abdominal muscle strength will be increased leading to less stress on the spine

Getting Started

It can be a little overwhelming when first starting out, however, there are also many ways go about adding weight training into a weekly routine. Setting a goal and making a plan can be the first step. Write out 1-2 goals and see where it fits into the week. Keep it simple by completing 1-2 strength training exercises during the days planned to do them. Lastly, an accountability partner or group can be really helpful. Having a friend to complete exercises with helps to keep motivation and accountability.

Check out SDSU Extension physical activity programs Fit & Strong! or Walk With Ease classes for more information on group fitness. Upcoming sessions can be found on the SDSU Extension “events” page.

Additional Resources:

Reference:

  1. Seguin, R. (2003). The benefits of strength training for older adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine25(3), 141–149. doi: 10.1016/s0749-3797(03)00177-6