Muscle-strengthening exercise is important for everyone of all ages, and it’s definitely important for older adults. Strength training exercises play a big role in maintaining or rebuilding the muscle you need to carry out daily living activities and get around to participate in activities you enjoy. Loss of muscle is a common problem in older adults and a well-rounded exercise plan can help. Both aerobic exercise like walking and weight bearing exercise with resistance training can benefit bone density, help combat osteoporosis, and improve balance.
US government physical activity guidelines emphasize that all adults, including those over age 65, should do muscle-strengthening activities (such as lifting weights or using resistance bands) that involve all major muscle groups on two or more days a week. The six major muscle groups are chest, shoulders, arms, back, abdomen and legs. Of course, strength-building exercise must be appropriate for each individual, and older adults who have not done this type of exercise before or who are recovering from reduced activity during an illness need to be cautious not to overdo or choose types or movements that lead to injury. Begin and progress with strength-training exercises at a level appropriate for your health and fitness. Allow one or two days between exercise sessions for any particular muscle group.
To help you get started, experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Tufts University have developed a strength-training program for adults called Growing Stronger. You can follow this program on the interactive website (it includes animations for how to do the exercises) or download or order a booklet. For people of any age who have some sort of orthopedic or heart-related health issue, it’s important to discuss what kinds of strength-training you should do with your physician.