Fitness Articles

Why Strength Training is a Must for Everyone

Strength Becomes More Important with Age

Think you’re too old to start a strength training program? Well think again! Strength training is just what your body needs to fight the loss of muscle, bone mass and strength that comes with age.

Everyone, no matter how young or old, should be doing some kind of regular strength training. This could be at the gym, or at home using very little equipment. Resistance bands and balls, small hand weights, water and even your own body weight can be used as resistance when designing a strength training program.

So what’s the point? If you’ve never participated in a strength training program, why start now? Here are some very important reasons strength training makes a difference in your quality of life:
  • Improves your ability to do everyday activities: The stronger your muscles, the easier it is to get groceries out of the car, get a package off of the top cabinet shelf, push the lawnmower…..the list goes on and on!
  • Improves your balance and stability: The stronger and more resilient your muscles, the more balance is sturdier. This will help keep you safe in your daily activities and decreases the risk of falls or accidents.
  • Builds muscle strength: Adults lose between five and seven pounds of muscle every decade after age 20. Strength training will help prevent this muscle loss, and rebuild what you may have lost.
  • Decreases your risk of osteoporosis: Inactivity and aging can lead to a decrease in bone density, leading to brittleness. Studies have shown that consistent strength training can increase bone density and prevent osteoporosis.
  • Reduces blood pressure: Strength training can be beneficial for the prevention and treatment of high blood pressure by strengthening the heart, allowing it to beat more efficiently.
  • Increases calorie burn: Strength training increases the body's metabolic rate, causing the body to burn more calories throughout the day. This aids significantly in long term weight loss.
  • Reduces low back pain: Research has shown that strength training can increase low back strength and alleviate low back pain.
Time spent on strength training can literally help you turn back the clock and feel younger each day. Here are some principles to remember when putting together a program:
  • Start by strength training 2 days/week, building up to 3 days/week for more of a challenge. Make sure you have at least one day of rest in between each session.
  • Start with 2-3 exercises each for lower body and upper body and 1-2 core exercises (abs, lower back). Examples of exercises can be found in the Fitness Resource Center.
  • Start with one set of each exercise (12-15 repetitions- slow and steady), using light hand weights, resistance bands or your own body weight. As you progress, you can work up to 2 and then 3 sets.
  • As you add additional sets, rest 30 seconds to a minute in between each one.
  • Never hold your breath during the exercises. Always exhale when exerting force (on the hard part of the movement).
  • Always warm up before and stretch before and after each session.
  • Pay attention to proper form and technique, as they are very important for injury prevention and producing results.
  • When selecting a weight, it should be heavy enough that you feel the muscle working and the difficulty increasing as you get to the 15th repetition. The weight should be light enough that you can do 15 repetitions without pain or breaking proper form.
  • Strength training should never be painful! If you experience pain, stop the exercise immediately.
No matter what your age, you have a lot to gain from regular strength training. Just remember to consult your doctor before starting any exercise program. It is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your independence for many years to come.

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Member Comments

  • Exercise is not a means to an end. It's a tool for beginning your best life.
  • looking at the exercises here at spark to start doing some strength training as well. Thanks
  • So how do I start and what do I do?
    I have 3lb dumbells at home and a stretch band.
  • I spend a lot of time on self powered vehicles during the cooler months in Florida, I also weight train, in the summer I spend more time with the weights. Based on many articles I've read regarding, it's never too late to start a weight training program, I have noticed an increase in strength, and muscle size even though I am 78 years old. When I'm lifting I don't think of my age, just the routine. I basically do the same routines I've been doing for years, albeit with lighter weights, but the results are the same, keep increasing weight during each set, slow the lifts, concentrate. Although my goal is to maintain my strength, I've noticed my shirts fit tighter, my arms, shoulders, chest, have increased in size, BTW I also haven't forgotten legs, I do seated leg presses, along with calf work, leg extensions, leg curls.
    Bottom line, it's true, age is academic, you can gain muscles, strength, endurance if you do the programs and goals you set for yourself.
  • I like strength training with weights/dumbbells
    Started out with canned food or bottled water and eventually put playbox sand in the water bottles to make them heavier. Now I have 2 - 1#, 2 - 2#, and 1 - 3# weights. I buy them usually at Thrift stores, sometimes at a sports store. The 3# is often too heavy for me. Sometimes I am still using the 2 - 1# weights. My shoulders get sore and pop some, so I take it day by day. Hard to imagine getting a lot heavier weights! Gyms are not really an option.
  • on day 14. Yea me. I can move easier then before. It is amazing how just a little bit of strength training helps.
  • I took one of those age tests online - and my fitness age is 22 years younger than my real age! Before I started this journey, I was 10 years OLDER than my real age! I'm back at my high school majorette weight -and, believe it or not, still just as limber as I was then! Yay, Spark People! I DO feel like a teen-ager again - and THEY can't keep up with ME!
  • Strength training is so awesome.
  • Hmmm, how come that guy in the red shirt is on that small stability ball (shame on the class instructor). Choose a ball that allows your knees to be at a 90 degree angle when seated.

    Nice article and timely as the cooler weather is upon us and many are forced indoors to exercise. However, stretching before a workout is a two edged sword. Muscles and joints are cold and not up to speed yet and if you stretch too much you can injure yourself. (especially if you are new at this kind of activity or haven't exercised for a while) Instead do some lower paced motions that are similar to your main workout. Perhaps do some light cardio and mild yoga or pilates for 5 to 10 minutes. Your body will appreciate your efforts a whole lot more and you minimize the risk of over stretching.

    Stretching after a workout is not an issue as long as it's done without over extending your range of motion. And DO NOT BOUNCE as you stretch! You can damage tendons and other connective tissue. Warm down is necessary especially if you elevated your heart rate. You want to get your heart slowly back down below 70 bpm. Slow jog, run in place, more basic pilates and yoga will help.


    Now get that body moving!
  • This article mentions stretching before and after the workout, but I've been thinking that stretching before working out--before the muscles are warm--could be bad for them...

    Maybe they mean stretching after the warmup and before the real workout.
  • My very FIRST of 200+ Secrets of Success {and was listed in the Nov.15,2012 e-mails!} was the IMPORTANCE and UNDERRATEDNESS of STRENGTH TRAINING over Cardio. In a nutshell, Strength Training burns LONGER than Cardio ,although both are good for your body and each is needed in keeping you strong and healthy. Check out my other Secrets of Succes;one may be of help to you! One important fact I have noted is that ST keeps your BONES in better condition along with enough calcium intake for the day {which is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT as we age}.~ Most problems people have as they age are bone fractures from a fall.
  • I notice that this article tells us to stretch BEFORE working out. NO! Nowadays we're told that stretching before working out hurts muscles. I see that it's worded to warm up and stretch before and after. This is messy and not too clear. It could mean that we are to stretch, then warm up and do the exercise, then stretch again. Or it sounds as if we are to warm up, but instead of segueing right in to the exercise, we stop and stretch, and then start the exercise.

    Please, Coach Nicole or someone, take a look at this.
  • Strength training helped me get off my plateau!
  • I, too, love strength work. I took prednisone for many years and losst a lost of bone density. In a little over a year, I have increased my bone density by 5% without the use of drugs. The slinician administering the test was VERY surprised that I could go up that much in a year with just lifting. No drugs needed!! Woohoo!
  • I just started last week and am learning to love it. I feel like I have more energy and am working toward a goal :)

About The Author

Jen Mueller Jen Mueller
Jen received her master's degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. A mom and avid marathon runner, she is an ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, medical exercise specialist and behavior change specialist. See all of Jen's articles.

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