Combat Aging with Strength Training
The age old “Use it or Lose it” principle again rings true. Strength training has consistently proven to help counteract age-related loss of muscle mass and strength, as well as improve bone density, metabolic health, and overall quality of life. Strength training can also help minimize complications and comorbidities in the management of chronic health conditions like heart disease, arthritis, Type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis.
The benefits of incorporating strength training into your exercise program are well founded, yet less than 10% of adults age 75+ participate in resistance training in the United States. It’s time to change that.
Ready to take the plunge and add strength training to your exercise regime? Here are some guidelines to help you get started:
Start with one set, and work up to 2-3 sets of each exercise
Perform 10–15 repetitions at a lower relative resistance for beginners. If lifting heavier weights/higher resistance, target 6-12 repetitions.
You should feel muscle fatigue or tiredness nearing the end of each set. If you complete 15 repetitions of an exercise and it does not feel tiring, consider increasing the weight/resistance.
Start with 8-10 strengthening exercises that target your upper body, lower body, and core muscles. Beginners may choose to use machines (i.e. leg press, lat pulldown), resistance bands/ tubing, or body-weight exercises (i.e. squats, push-ups). Joining a strength-based class at your local senior center or gym will also provide a great introduction. More experienced individuals may consider adding free-weights (i.e. dumbbells, medicine balls, kettlebells) for more dynamic and diverse training.
Strength training should be performed 2-3 days per week on non-consecutive days. It is important to allow time for your muscles to rest and recover. For a well-rounded program, try alternating your strength training days with aerobic exercise.
Any time you are starting a new program, start slowly and build your way up! Make sure you are gradually increasing your weight or resistance over time. Always perform exercises with slow, controlled movements. If you are unable to maintain good form, drop down your weight or resistance level. If you have pain or limitations, check your form then modify your movement or decrease the weight to stay within a pain-free range. A well- designed training program can enhance muscle strength, power, coordination, and overall health. Fight the good fight. Be active. Stay strong.
Fragala, Maren S et al. “Resistance Training for Older Adults: Position Statement From the National Strength and Conditioning Association.” Journal of strength and conditioning research vol. 33,8 (2019): 2019-2052. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000003230
National Center for Health Statistics.Survey Description, National Health Interview Survey, 2015. Hyattsville, Maryland: National Center for Health Statistics, 2016.