Strength Training by Age: Physical Activity is an Essential Part of Everyday Life

Physical activity is an essential part of everyday life and a cornerstone to maintaining good health. There’s a lot of focus on aerobic exercise and why you should do it, but are you aware of the importance of strength training?

Here’s something to think about. Your muscles are one of the biggest threats to your freedom and independence as you age. Unfortunately, with each passing decade, your muscle mass declines, and building muscle gets more challenging, too. But there is a way to remedy it. You guessed it – strength training. 

Let’s take a quick look at what happens as you age:

  • In your 20s: Your body is resilient and can recover quickly. Now is a great time to start building the foundation for lifelong fitness by incorporating strength training into your routine.
  • In your 30s: Your metabolism slows down some with each decade after your 20s, and your weight won’t come off like it used to. Unfortunately, your body also starts to lose muscle at this age, making strength training even more critical.
  • In your 40s: Your muscles will start to lose mass and elasticity, your hormones will begin to drop, your metabolism will slow even more, and you also may start to have pain in your joints. Again, building muscle now will pay off in your older years.
  • In your 50s: You will start to have more aches and pains, and your body will want to curve forward. Don’t let it! Now is when you should focus even more on strengthening your core muscles and incorporating postural exercises to stand up straighter.
  • In your 60s: It is more difficult to increase muscle mass, but it’s not impossible. Continued strength training can help ward off age-related muscle loss.
  • In your 70s and beyond: Strength and flexibility will be essential to maintaining your function and independence. Now is the time that all of your hard work will pay off.

As you can see, strength training is not just about vanity or building impressive muscles. It offers many physical, mental, and health benefits that go far beyond appearance. In fact, strength training can help:

  • Improve functional strength: Strength training helps build physical strength for everyday activities like performing household tasks.
  • Boost metabolism: Building muscle increases your metabolic rate, which allows you to burn more calories at rest.
  • Decrease abdominal fat: Fat stored around the abdomen can put you at an increased rate for chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and more.
  • Lower the risk of injury and falls: When you strength train, you can better support your body, because it improves your strength, range of motion, and mobility.
  • Improve heart health: Regular strength training can decrease blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and help you maintain a healthy body weight, all of which are good for heart health.
  • Strengthen bones: Weight-bearing exercises put stress on your bones, which increases bone density and can help prevent conditions like osteoporosis, reducing the risk of bone-related injuries like fractures.
  • Alleviate pain: Strength training can improve musculoskeletal health and alleviate discomfort for conditions like lower back pain.
  • Better mental health: Exercise may reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, increase self-esteem, and promote the release of mood-booting endorphins – all of which play a role in better mental health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevent (CDC), most adults should get at least two days a week of activities that strengthen muscles for all the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms). You can accomplish this in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Weight lifting
  • Resistance bands
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Body weight (push-ups, sit-ups, etc.)
  • Heavy gardening (digging, shoveling)
  • Wheeling a wheelchair
  • Lifting and carrying children

There are many ways to strengthen your muscles, whether you’re in the gym or not. If you’d like to start incorporating strength training into your weekly routine, here is some general guidance by age.

Strength Training for Young Adults (Ages 19 – 40)

  • Consistently increase resistance to build muscle and strength
  • Incorporate exercises like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses that require you to use multiple groups of muscles
  • Include cardiovascular activities to improve overall fitness

Strength Training for Middle-Aged Adults (Ages 41 – 64)​

  • Continue strength training to maintain muscle mass and bone density
  • Pay attention to joint health and mobility
  • Add flexibility and balance exercises
  • Consider including lower-impact cardiovascular fitness

Strength Training for Older Adults (Ages 65+)​

  • Focus on functional strength, balance, and flexibility
  • Use lighter weights and resistance bands to prevent injury
  • Emphasize exercises that support daily living activities
  • Prioritize bone health by doing weight-bearing exercises
  • Seek professional assistance for specialized programs to address age-related challenges
  • Modify exercises to accommodate any physical limitations
  • Regularly monitor progress and adapt the program as needed

Strength training can have a positive impact on your health, and it’s never too late to get started. Before embarking on a new exercise journey, thought, it’s always a good idea to consult your general healthcare provider. Then, start small with body weight and focus on your movement quality. Once that’s in a good place, add weight and build from there. You’ve got this!

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