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Feature Articles - Aging


Strength training beneficial for older adults

Nina Chen, Ph.D., CFLE, Human Development Specialist, Jackson County, University of Missouri Extension


Older woman on exercise ball using hand weightsPeople often think that strength training is only for young people. However, studies show that strength exercises are effective for women and men of all ages whether you are 30 or 85. It is never too late for older adults to start strength training.


Growing older for many adults seems to mean an inevitable loss of energy and strength because of muscle loss. Older adults who become weak may lack strength to do daily activities like lifting objects, carrying groceries, climbing stairs, etc. Muscle loss can cause injuries and balance problems, and contributes to the risk of falling. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, one in every three adults age 65 and older falls each year.


Muscle mass diminishes with age. If people are not physically active over time, they continue to lose more muscle from inactivity. The effect of muscle loss can be prevented and reduced through physical activity. One of the best exercises to help enhance muscle mass and slow muscle loss is strength training. Studies at Tufts University show that when people do strength training regularly, the training helps build bone, preserve strength, and prevent the loss of muscle mass and the development of chronic diseases. Dr. Miriam Nelson of Tufts University and author of several books including Strong Women, Strong Bones listed several benefits of strength training.


  • Reduce arthritis pain and stiffness, and increase flexibility and strength
  • Reduce risk of falls and increase balance
  • Increase metabolism by as much as 15 percent, which is enormously helpful for weight loss and long-term weight control
  • Build bone density and prevent osteoporosis
  • Reduce the risk for chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease
  • Increase ability to do everyday tasks
  • Increase self-confidence and sense of well-being with a healthy state of mind
  • Improve sleep


Strength training can help people stay healthy and independent. Consult with a physician before beginning strength training. University of Missouri Extension offers a strength-training program for middle-aged and older adults called Stay Strong, Stay Healthy. For more information about strength training or about Stay Strong, Stay Healthy, contact your local University of Missouri Extension office.


Growing Stronger: Strength Training for Older Adults. Retrieved from (accessed February 21, 2011).


Vibrant Aging Overview. Retrieved from (accessed February 22, 2011).


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