No matter your age, regular physical movement is one of the most important things you can do for your health. And if you're an older adult, regular physical activity is essential for strong aging. To get the strength benefits of physical activity, not only do you need to do aerobic actions that make you breathe harder and your heart beat faster, but you also need to do strengthening behavior to make your muscles stronger.
According to the 2008 Physical Activity rule for Americans, older adults gain considerable health benefits from 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) a week of reasonable-strength aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking), in combination with muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all seven major muscle groups - your legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms.
Benefits of Muscle-Strengthening Activities
As people age, they lose muscle. Muscle-strengthening activities can build muscle tissue and help slow the rate of age-related muscle loss. In addition, strengthening activities can maintain the strength of your bones and improve your balance, coordination, and mobility. Older adults who participate in moderate-intensity muscle-strengthening and balance activities are less likely to have falls.
When to Check with Your Doctor
Doing activity that requires moderate effort is safe for most people, regardless of age. However, if you have a health condition such as heart disease, arthritis, or diabetes be sure to talk with your doctor about the types and amounts of physical activity that are right for you.
Tips for Getting Started
- Choose behavior that work all seven major muscle groups of your body (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms), such as lifting weights, effective with resistance bands, doing exercises that use your body weight for resistance, or yoga.
- Try to do 8–12 repetitions per strengthening activity. A repetition is one complete movement of an activity, like lifting a weight or doing one sit-up. To develop muscle strength and endurance, the number of strengthening activities needs to be done to the point where it's hard for you to do another repetition without help.
- Strive to increase the weight that you currently lift when it becomes too easy. Muscles are strengthened by progressively increasing the weight you lift over time. When you can lift the weight 8–12 times easily, it may be time to increase the amount of weight at your next session.
- You can do muscle-strengthening behavior in a number of settings, including your home or a gym. For examples of activities you may want to try, visit Growing Stronger – Strength Training for Older Adults: Exercises, Muscle Strengthening at Home, and Muscle Strengthening at the Gym