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Strength Training: You’re Not “Too Old!”

Image for elderly strength training articleStrength training exercises are important for older adults. They can help reduce the effects of age-related muscle loss. To get the most benefit, be sure you have proper guidance and support.

About Strength-Training Exercises

Benefits

The benefits of strength training are:

  • Better balance and reduced risk of falls
  • Quicker responses, which may also play a role in preventing falls
  • Reduced risk of osteoporosis (weakening of the bones)
  • Improved quality of life
  • Improved mental alertness

Examples of Strength-Training Exercises

You can increase your strength by regularly:

  • Lifting weights—and slowly increasing the amount of weight you use
  • Using strength-training equipment
  • Using a resistance band—a giant "rubber band" that you stretch

How Much and How Often?

Here are some tips on how much and how often to do strength training:

Safety Tips

Strengthen Those Muscles!

Here are some examples of exercises to increase strength:

Side Arm Raise

This exercise strengthens shoulder muscles.

  1. Sit in an armless chair with your back supported by the back of chair.
  2. Keep your feet flat on the floor and even with your shoulders.
  3. Hold hand weights straight down at your sides, with palms facing inward.
  4. Raise both arms to your side, shoulder height.
  5. Hold the position for one second.
  6. Slowly lower your arms to your sides. Pause.
  7. Repeat 10 to15 times.
  8. Rest; then do another set of 10 to 15 repetitions.

Arm Curl

This exercise strengthens upper-arm muscles.

  1. Stand with your feet even with your shoulders.
  2. Keep your feet flat on the floor and even with your shoulders.
  3. Hold your hand weights straight down at your sides, with palms facing forward.
  4. Slowly bend one elbow, lifting weight toward your chest. (Rotate your palm to face your shoulder while lifting the weight.)
  5. Hold this position for one second.
  6. Slowly lower your arm to the starting position. Pause.
  7. Repeat with the other arm.
  8. Alternate arms until you have done 10 to 15 repetitions with each arm.
  9. Rest; then do another set of 10 to 15 alternating repetitions.

Front Arm Raise

Strengthen shoulder muscles:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart
  2. Hold hand weights straight down at your sides, with palms facing backward.
  3. Raise both arms in front of you to shoulder height. Do not turn your wrist.
  4. Hold this position for 1 second.
  5. Slowly lower your arms. Pause.
  6. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
  7. Rest; then do another set of 10 to 15 repetitions.

Leg Straightening

Strengthens muscles in front of thigh and shin. You can use ankle weights for this exercise if you are able.

  1. Sit in a chair. Only the balls of your feet and your toes should rest on the floor. Put a rolled towel under your knees, if needed, to lift your feet. Rest your hands on your thighs or on the sides of the chair.
  2. Slowly extend 1 leg in front of you as straight as possible.
  3. Flex your foot to point toes toward head.
  4. Hold this position for 1 to 2 seconds.
  5. Slowly lower your leg back down. Pause.
  6. Repeat with your other leg.
  7. Alternate legs until you have done 10 to 15 repetitions with each leg.
  8. Rest; then do another set of 10 to 15 alternating repetitions.

Side Leg Raise

This strengthens muscles at the sides of your hips and thighs. Use ankle weights, if you are ready.

  1. Stand straight, directly behind a table or chair, feet slightly apart.
  2. Hold onto a table or chair for balance.
  3. Slowly lift 1 leg 6 to 12 inches out to the side. Keep your back and both legs straight. Do not point your toes outward; keep them facing forward.
  4. Hold this position for 1 second.
  5. Slowly lower your leg. Pause.
  6. Repeat with other leg.
  7. Alternate legs until you have done 10 to15 repetitions with each leg.
  8. Rest; then do another set of 10 to 15 alternating repetitions.
RESOURCES:

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
http://www.familydoctor.org

National Institute on Aging
http://www.nia.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Public Health Agency of Canada
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca

The College of Family Physicians of Canada
http://www.cfpc.ca

REFERENCES:

Exercise and physical activity. National Institute on Aging website. Available at: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/exercise-physical-activity. Accessed October 21, 2021.

Lee P, Jackson E, at al. Exercise prescriptions in older adults. Am Fam Physician. 2017;95(7):425-432.

Strength training for older adults.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/downloads/growing_stronger.pdf. Accessed October 21, 2021.

Last reviewed October 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board   Last Updated: 10/21/2021