The importance of strength training for seniors: Staying strong as you age

As we journey through life, our bodies undergo various changes that come naturally with aging. 

These changes encompass a blend of structural, biochemical and physiological shifts intrinsic to our existence. While some of these alterations are unavoidable, our lifestyle choices, including physical activity and exercise, significantly influence the speed and extent of these changes.

Exercise is widely recognized for its manifold health benefits. Yet, the advantages of strength training, also known as resistance training, are gaining prominence in research and promotion.

Particularly noteworthy are the advantages of strength training tailored for older adults. These benefits are so profound that considering strength training as a prescribed practice by healthcare professionals seems fitting.

Aging and its effects on the body

  • Muscle mass and strength diminish, a condition termed sarcopenia [1].
  • Bone density decreases, leading to osteopenia.
  • Cardiovascular changes result in reduced oxygen and glucose distribution.
  • Kidney function declines, affecting urine concentration and electrolyte balance.
  • Efficient glucose metabolism diminishes, contributing to increased body fat.
  • Brain volume decreases, impacting message transmission between cells.

These changes bear substantial consequences. Some are inevitable due to aging, while others are influenced by genetics and environment.

Weak muscles and bones result in decreased mobility, discomfort, and challenges in daily activities such as walking, climbing stairs and doing household chores. Moreover, it escalates the risk of falls and serious injuries, such as fractures, posing a threat to older individuals’ independence and overall quality of life [2].

Understanding the rate of change

  • Peak physical capacity generally occurs between ages 20-30.
  • Gradual muscle decline starts around age 50, followed by accelerated decline.
  • Studies indicate a potential 15% strength loss per decade after the 50s [3].
  • Factors like lifestyle, genetics and health conditions influence variability in muscle loss.

Empowering seniors with strength training

  • Not all aging-related changes are inevitable.
  • Evidence indicates that much of muscle decline is due to inactivity [4, 5].
  • Engaging in strength training provides a practical approach to taking control of aging-related effects.

Benefits of strength training for seniors:

  • Substantial evidence supports improved muscle strength, mass and function [6].
  • Muscle hypertrophy, or growth, is induced by strength training.
  • Enhanced muscle power aids in performing daily activities with ease.
  • Benefits extend to better body composition, bone density, and disease prevention.

Older adults can benefit from strength training 2-3 times a week:

  • Increased muscle mass and strength.
  • Enhanced bone density.
  • Improved quality of life and functional abilities.
  • Heightened levels of independence.
  • Reduced risk of age-related diseases.
  • Enhanced sleep quality and mental well-being.

Starting a strength training regimen might appear daunting for seniors, but it need not be intimidating. It’s not limited to the gym with heavy weights; it can be pursued at home with minimal equipment.

Exploring accessible resources such as beginner programs or personalized coaching can ease the transition into this valuable practice.

The bottom line is clear: embracing strength training as an older adult offers a tangible pathway to counteract age-related changes, enhance vitality, and improve overall well-being [6].


Photograph: DC_Studio/Envato
The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.