Strengthening Activities and Older Adults


Muscle-strengthening activities can provide numerous health benefits, particularly as you grow older. There are many ways you can strengthen your muscles, whether it’s at home or the gym. The activities you choose should work all the major muscle groups of your body (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms).

No matter your age, regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. And if you’re an older adult (65 years of age or older), regular physical activity is essential for healthy aging. To get the health benefits of physical activity, not only do you need to do aerobic activities that make you breathe harder and your heart beat faster, but you also need to do strengthening activities to make your muscles stronger.

According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, older adults gain substantial health benefits from 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking), in combination with muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all seven major muscle groups—your legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms.

Benefits of Muscle-Strengthening Activities

As people age, they lose muscle. Muscle-strengthening activities can build muscle tissue and help slow the rate of age-related muscle loss. In addition, strengthening activities can maintain the strength of your bones and improve your balance, coordination, and mobility. Older adults who participate in moderate-intensity muscle-strengthening and balance activities are less likely to have falls.

When to Check with Your Doctor

Doing activity that requires moderate effort is safe for most people, regardless of age. However, if you have a health condition such as heart disease, arthritis, or diabetes be sure to talk with your doctor about the types and amounts of physical activity that are right for you.

Tips for Getting Started

>Choose activities that work all seven major muscle groups of your body (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms), such as lifting weights, working with resistance bands, doing exercises that use your body weight for resistance (such as push-ups and sit-ups), or yoga.

>Try to do 8–12 repetitions per strengthening activity. A repetition is one complete movement of an activity, like lifting a weight or doing one sit-up. To develop muscle strength and endurance, the number of strengthening activities needs to be done to the point where it’s hard for you to do another repetition without help.

>Strive to increase the weight that you currently lift when it becomes too easy. Muscles are strengthened by progressively increasing the weight you lift over time. When you can lift the weight 8–12 times easily, it may be time to increase the amount of weight at your next session.

>You can do muscle-strengthening activities in a number of settings, including your home or a gym. For examples of activities you may want to try, visit

Growing Stronger – Strength Training for Older Adults

Exercises, Muscle Strengthening at Home,

and Muscle Strengthening at the Gym.

Staying Safe and Avoiding Injury

Muscle strengthening is generally safe for everyone. Here are some things you can do to stay safe while strengthening your muscles:

>If you haven’t been active in a while, start slowly and build up.

>Choose muscle-strengthening activities that are appropriate for your fitness level.

>Maintain good posture when performing all activities.

>When picking weights up from the floor (or putting them down), use your legs—not your back.

>See a health care provider if you have a health condition.

More Information

Growing Stronger – Strength Training for Older Adults

Physical Activity for Everyone: Guidelines for Older Adults

Physical Activity for Everyone: How Much Physical Activity Do You Need?


Content source: National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity


2 thoughts on “Strengthening Activities and Older Adults

  1. Hi Anne

    I blog diary on my home gym and training techniques.

    I figure it is my life and up to me to sensibly try empirically to identify the techniques which are most helpful. So I am not offering the blog as instruction but only as a record of my own antics (such as being exercised by caninis untirabilis or labradoodle)

    This week (exactly the same day as antibiotics and oral steroids were prescribed last year) I was told by the doctor “You have the beating of this one without the steroids, just have the antibiotics”.

    My spirometry 06 and 07 came up 42%. In 08 52% when spirometry coincided with a creatine loading period. I don’t know if you have posted on the supplement creatine ?

    I try to use “Pre-exhausting” and “tri sets” in order to really test the muscle local energy supply. It appears to happen that if the role of the aerobic system (to recharge the stored energy supply in muscles … what is called “Oxygen debt”) to re’charge the anaerobic system is exercised that the other role of the aerobic system (continuous energy for walking for example) becaomes more efficient. Maybe this is why lifters can do better 6 minute walk tests than non lifters with the same spirometry readings ?

    I am finding only positive support. I have started ju jitsu. The black belt instructors are right behind me. Train at my own pace etc. At our allotments there is a toung man who has Crohns disease. An ex Mixed Martials Arts fighter. At 22 very young to be tilling an allotment but I guess he is growing quality veg to help his condition. IE a young man giving it a go. He is on the cusp of returning to training by attending the same ju jitsu club as me. Where you can train at your own ability and no one is macho on yer back. (And there are some hard cases in the ju jitsu .. lovely fellas hard on themselves in training and supportive of the less able)

    Any chance you can do a Tuesday tune based on Applejack ?

    Heard Dolly Parton sing it the other night on video and cannot get the tune outa my head. Need the relief of different lyrics.

    Best wishes Richard

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *