The benefits of strength training for older adults

Am J Prev Med. 2003 Oct;25(3 Suppl 2):141-9. doi: 10.1016/s0749-3797(03)00177-6.


Aging is associated with a number of physiologic and functional declines that can contribute to increased disability, frailty, and falls. Contributing factors are the loss of muscle mass and strength as age increases, a phenomenon called sarcopenia. Sarcopenia can result or be exacerbated by certain chronic conditions, and can also increase the burden of chronic disease. Current research has demonstrated that strength-training exercises have the ability to combat weakness and frailty and their debilitating consequences. Done regularly (e.g., 2 to 3 days per week), these exercises build muscle strength and muscle mass and preserve bone density, independence, and vitality with age. In addition, strength training also has the ability to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and the signs and symptoms of numerous chronic diseases such as heart disease, arthritis, and type 2 diabetes, while also improving sleep and reducing depression. This paper reviews the current research on strength training and older adults, evaluating exercise protocols in a variety of populations. It is clear that a variety of strength-training prescriptions from highly controlled laboratory-based to minimally supervised home-based programs have the ability to elicit meaningful health benefits in older adults. The key challenges as this field of exercise science moves forward are to best identify the most appropriate strength-training recommendations for older adults and to greatly increase the access to safe and effective programs in a variety of settings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control
  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Community Health Services
  • Disabled Persons / rehabilitation
  • Environment
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Forecasting
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / prevention & control
  • Physical Education and Training*
  • Physical Endurance