A common misconception is that strength training is only beneficial for young adults. This is simply not true! Strengthening can be beneficial at any age; in fact there is no age limitation to gain strength. We know that muscle strength can be increased by progressive loads at any age. There is also evidence that suggests muscle strength can help with mobility, such as gait speed, and improving function for tasks, such as standing up from a chair. Increasing strength in the older population is beneficial to decrease risk of injury and has other health benefits as well.
As we age, falls become more common and can lead to more severe injuries. Each year, 25% of adults 65 and older experience a fall.2 Falls can be associated with weakness, balance issues, medication use, or obstacles within the home and community. While we cannot prevent all falls completely, we can try to decrease the risk of a fall, and one way to decrease your risk is to do strength and balance training.
Muscle weakness is common in people with osteoarthritis (OA) and can be associated with functional limitations such as difficulty walking or climbing stairs.1 Strength training has been shown to help with pain from osteoarthritis.1 For those with OA, adherence to exercise programs may be difficult due to pain in the joints. However, research shows that pain levels can be reduced in those with OA by performing a progressive strengthening program. It’s important to note that dosage of strength training should be individualized.
Exercise has many benefits including decreased risk of depression, improved health status, and improved reports of happiness. Concurrently, a sedentary lifestyle has been associated with many poor health outcomes.4 When we exercise, the body releases chemicals that boost your sense of well-being and suppress hormones that cause stress and anxiety. Among the chemicals released are endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine neurotransmitters which are related to pain and depression emotions.4
Studies have shown that 20-30 minutes of strength training 2-3 times per week can have positive effects on risk factors for cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular diseases.3 In terms of function, regular strength training can increase distance walked, ability to rise from a chair, and subjective reports of higher mobility.3
Strengthening for the older adult has many benefits. Exercise programs should be selected that best fit into your lifestyle as you will be more likely to stick with a program you enjoy. As with any program, consult your doctor prior to starting or reach out to your nearest Athletico to discuss strengthening with a physical therapist. Get started by scheduling a Free Assessment today. Free Assessments are available in-clinic and virtually through our Telehealth platform.
The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.
1. Latham N, Liu CJ. Strength training in older adults: the benefits for osteoarthritis. Clin Geriatr Med. 2010;26(3):445-459. doi:10.1016/j.cger.2010.03.006
2. Fall Prevention: Balance and Strength Exercises for Older Adults. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/fall-prevention-exercises
3. Mayer F, Scharhag-Rosenberger F, Carlsohn A, Cassel M, Müller S, Scharhag J. The intensity and effects of strength training in the elderly. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2011;108(21):359-364. doi:10.3238/arztebl.2011.0359
4. Richards J, Jiang X, Kelly P, Chau J, Bauman A, Ding D. Don’t worry, be happy: cross-sectional associations between physical activity and happiness in 15 European countries. BMC Public Health. 2015;15:53. doi:10.1186/s12889-015-1391-4.