The Importance of Strength Training as We Age

Understanding the benefits of strength training is paramount in maintaining our health as we age. Studies have shown that about 30% of adults over age 70 have trouble walking, getting up from a chair, or climbing stairs. In addition to making everyday tasks difficult, mobility limitations are also linked to higher rates of falls, chronic disease, nursing home admission, and mortality.


Age-related mobility limitations are a fact of life for many older adults. A big culprit for losing our physical abilities as we grow older is the age-related loss of muscle mass and strength. Typically, muscle mass and strength increase steadily from birth and peak at around 30 to 35 years of age. After that, muscle power and performance decline slowly and linearly at first and then faster after age 65 for women and 70 for men. This condition or loss of muscle and strength is called Sarcopenia. 

As we age, inevitable functional and biological limitations can impact exercise endurance, maximum strength, and fitness. While there is no way to fully “stop the clock,” it’s possible for many older adults to increase muscle strength with exercise, which can help maintain mobility and independence into later life.

The Science of Strength Training

Strength training (also known as resistance training) differs from aerobic exercises such as running, cycling, or walking.

Resistance training requires our muscles to contract to lift a heavy object against the pull of gravity. Either with machines or free weights, weightlifting is one type of resistance training. Other types include medicine balls, resistance bands, or body weight-bearing exercises such as pushups, squats, or yoga.


Even low-intensity strength and walking programs have substantial benefits!


When you do resistance or strength training, essential chains of molecules that relay signals between cells are affected. These changes linger in the body for hours after exercise, building up a cumulative, positive effect.


Get started today. You’re stronger than you think


info for this blog post comes from Roger A. Fielding, Ph.D., associate director, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research conducted at Tufts University

Can strength training help prevent obesity as we age?

 NIA scientist Dennis T. Villareal, M.D., a professor at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, has found that incorporating weightlifting into an exercise and diet intervention for older adults with obesity yields better results than diet or aerobic exercise alone.“We work at the intersection of two big changes for society: aging and obesity,” Villareal said. “About one-third of older adults have obesity, and that number is rapidly expanding.” According to Villareal, it’s not well understood that older adults with obesity can also be frail, creating a vicious cycle of mobility and independence loss as the years and pounds increase. “Folks who are obese need more muscle mass to carry their body weight. As these individuals age and muscle loss continues, they are a risk for a condition called sarcopenic obesity, which is the worst of both worlds.” In addition, as people lose weight with diet and aerobic exercise, they have an increased risk of losing lean muscle mass and bone density, which are essential for everyday activities and avoiding falls. “That’s where strength training has a vital role in managing health and wellbeing. A healthy diet combined with a workout mixing aerobic exercise, resistance training, and balance is paramount in preventing, minimizing, or reversing frailty as we age.

Tips for staying strong in your daily routines

Aging starts at birth, and throughout our lifespans, exercising to help prevent disease and disability is very important. Undoubtedly, our ability to respond to exercise becomes more challenging as we grow older. No individuals, even seemingly superhuman pro athletes who keep winning championships into their 40s, will have the same physical response to exercise at age 65 as they do at 30 or even 40. Some people perform incredible feats of strength and endurance well into retirement. The great news is: You don’t have to bench press 300 pounds or run a marathon to show off the benefits of strength training. So, what is some bottom-line, realistic advice to keep strong and moving as we age? ………Create a realistic, sustainable plan to promote and sustain muscle mass throughout aging.


If you want to build lean muscle, try these tips:

  • Know what to expect. Don’t try to compare yourself to younger people. Everyone is unique and we all age differently.
  • Incorporate strength training into your fitness routine three to four days per week.
  • Take advantage of your own body weight with pushups, pullups, and squats. All of which can be modified based on your fitness level.
  • Consider recreational activities that help you build muscle like biking, swimming, hiking.
  • Proteins build muscle. Include lean proteins like fish or chicken several times a week in your diet and/or include a high-quality protein shake as part of your nutritional plan.
  • Consider hiring a Personal Trainer or at minimum hire a trainer for a few sessions to ensure proper execution, safety, and form.


Reference: Research Highlights June 2022