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Strength Training for Older Adults

Improve Your Health

Older adults of all ages and abilities can benefit from regular strength training. Fran, 69, of Charlotte, NC, stumbled into the benefits of strength training. Years ago, she tripped over a bedspread and twisted her knee. During rehab, she was given a set of weight-based exercises to help strengthen her leg muscles and speed her recovery. Fran had always been active, but she felt better after doing these exercises.

Strength training can boost your health in many ways, such as:

  • Improving health problems like osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, back pain, and depression
  • Increasing your flexibility
  • Making your bones stronger
  • Helping you to maintain a healthy weight
  • Improving your sleep
  • Keeping your heart healthy
  • Improving your mood

Focus on Your Muscles

A strength-training routine should focus on the major muscles in your body. These are found in your arms, legs, chest, back, and abdomen. You may think that your daily activities are enough to work them, but strength-training can target muscles and push them to become stronger. Here are just a few of the exercises:

Getting Started

Before you start:

  • Check with your doctor—You need to make sure you are well enough to get started with a fitness program.
  • Learn about workouts—Talk with your doctor, read books, and visit trusted websites. Look for exercises that are right for your age and fitness level. Remember that you are more likely to stick with workouts that fit in with your lifestyle.
  • Get equipment or join a health club—Try dumbbells and ankle weights and even using your own body weight.

Keep these tips in mind when you are ready to start:

  • Aim for 2 days a week.
  • Lift as heavy a weight as you can while using proper form. Start off light and add more weight as you improve.
  • Work up to doing 2 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.
  • Exercise slowly and use a full range of motion.
  • Work on paired muscle groups to get the most benefit. If you are exercising your biceps, also include exercises that will strengthen your triceps.

American Council on Exercise

National Institute on Aging


Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology

Healthy Canadians


Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans; Chapter 5: active older adults. US Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: Accessed November 2, 2021.

Exercise and phyical activity. National Institute on Aging website. Available at: Accessed November 2, 2021.

Growing stronger: Strength training for older adults. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Accessed November 2, 2021.

Last reviewed November 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board  Last Updated: 11/2/2021