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
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.