Strength Training Benefits and Guidelines for Seniors

Strength Training Guidelines for Seniors

Older couple running
Getty Images/Alistair Berg

We know how important it is to stay active as we get older and, if you are, that's a good thing. But we have to do more than just stay active if we want to stay healthy and strong. Yes, we have to lift weights.

No, lifting weights isn't just for athletes or bodybuilders, it's for all of us, especially older adults. It's by far one of the most important things you can do for your body and here's why.

The Benefits of Strength Training

Strength training can:

So, what exercises should you do and how do you get started? The ACSM/AHA Physical Activity Recommendations for Older Adults suggest a program that includes:

  • 8-10 exercises involving the major muscles of the body: The chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, legs, ​and core.
  • 2-3 nonconsecutive days a week - Rest days allow your muscles to change and grow stronger while also allowing your body to recover
  • Using enough weight to complete at least 1 set of 10-15 reps of each exercise

Setting Up Your Strength Training Workouts

  1. Choose Your Exercises - If you're working out with machines, a common strength program might include:If you're exercising with free weights, your program might include:
  1. Choose Your Reps and Sets - The guidelines suggest 1 set of 10-15 reps. Start with a weight you can lift 15 times to get used to the exercises and gradually increase the weight and reduce your reps as you get stronger.
  2. Choose Your Weight - This takes some time and experimentation, so it's best to err on the side of caution and choose a light weight at first to get your form down. The more you exercise and the stronger you get, the easier it gets to choose the right amount of weight.
  1. Choose How Often You Exercise - If you're just getting started, you might start with 2 days of strength training with at least one day of rest in between. As you get stronger, you can add a third day of strength training.


Barbour K, Blumenthal J. Exercise training and depression in older adults. Neurobiology of Aging. 2005:26(1); 119-123.

Cussler E, Lohman T, Going S, et al. Weight Lifted in Strength Training Predicts Bone Change in Postmenopausal Women. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 35, No. 1, pp. 10-17, 2003.

Dunstan D, Daly R, Owen N, et al. High-Intensity Resistance Training Improves Glycemic Control in Older Patients With Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care. Oct 2002;25(10):1729-1736.

Kell R, Asmundson G. A Comparison of Two Forms of Periodized Exercise Rehabilitation Programs in the Management of Chronic Nonspecific Low-Back Pain. J Strength Cond Res 23(2): 513-523, 2009.

Nelson M, Rejeski W, Blair S, et al. Physical Activity and Public Health in Older Adults: Recommendation from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2007;116;1094-1105.

Continue Reading