Resistance Training for Older Adults

Resistance training is a form of exercise that is aimed at improving muscular strength and endurance. This can be any exercise that causes the muscles to work against an external resistance. This form of training is most commonly associated with this external resistance being provided by weighted bars/dumbbells and machines. However, this can easily be achieved using our bodyweight or household items, tins of beans, shopping bags. etc.

Therefore this can be easily adapted to a home setting, obviously very pertinent in the current climate. As we will discuss, the benefits of this form of training are wide ranging and can be achieved with twice weekly simple exercise sessions, which we will outline below.

The importance of physical activity and the many benefits this brings are well recognised. Particularly as we get older we become more mindful of maintaining function and limiting the effects that the natural ageing process has upon us. At a time where we are predominantly housebound and may be looking at new ways to exercise and stay healthy, resistance training may have a great role to play particularly in the older population (over 60’s). Performing exercises that are targeted at improving muscle function is arguably more important in older adults in order to maintain a high quality of life, reduce injury risk and managing any long-term health issues.

What are the benefits?

Age-related loss of muscle mass (known as sarcopenia) and associated loss of muscle mass affects all adults throughout their lifespan, these changes naturally result in loss or decline in function of every day activities and ultimately can lead to reduced quality of life.

Resistance training has been demonstrated as effective way to achieve gains in muscle mass and strength, and has also been well documented in attenuating various forms of muscle wasting. Moreover research has demonstrated that with appropriate training, older adults can reverse strength and muscle mass deficits to previous levels of your younger glory days.

Alongside the changes to muscle size and function there are numerous other benefits of resistance training that have been noted;

  • Increased bone muscle density, reduced bone density loss (Osteopenia)

  • Symptom reduction in Diabetes (Pesta et al., 2017),

  • Symptom reduction in improved function in Osteoarthritis (Latham and Ching-ju-Lin, 2010) and Osteoporosis (Hong and Sang-Wam, 2018)

  • Improved balance - reduced falls risk, improved function

  • Improved function in activities of daily living

What? When? How often?

The consensus amongst the evidence and as directed by the World Health Organisation is that the benefits noted above can be achieved via a resistance training programme that involves 6-8 exercises, of 8-12 repetitions performed twice a week (not consecutive days).

Programme Example

As with all training/exercise programmes, it is important to make theses specific to your levels of fitness and previous training. This also needs to be achievable and should aim to focus on functional movements or movements you are familiar with and can perform safely with control and confidence, an example is provided below.

1) Squat; start body weight, through range aiming for chair initially progress to weight held in front or overhead.

2) Bridge; can progress with single leg holds, or add weight across pelvis.

3) Step-up; progress with depth of step or weight in hands.

4) Incline Press up; press-up off a stable base, (e.g. kitchen counter), through range. Progress through to floor press-up.

5) Bicep Curl/Row; working through full elbow range, progress with weight in hand.

6) Over Head press; working through full range, progress with weight in hand.


The benefits of resistance training on general health, the ageing processes and disease progression have been demonstrated throughout research. These benefits are not just limited to the younger or more athletic populations, if anything they would appear even more important to those over 60 years, with the need to maintain independence and function. The best programme is always one which is achievable and can be performed twice weekly.

As always please contact us to discuss this further or if you feel you need support prior to commencing any programme of training. If you require video demonstrations of the above programme please email us directly and we can get this to you.



1) Effects of resistance training frequency on physiological adaptations in older adults.

Murlasist, Z., Reed, J., Wells, K. (2012)

Journal of Exercise Science and Fitness

2) Short Term heavy resistance training eliminates age-related deficits in muscle mass and strength in healthy older males.

Gandew, DG. et al (2011)

Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research

3) Strength training in older adults, the benefits for Osteoathritis.

Latham, N. and Ching-ju Lin (2010)

Journal of Clinical Geriatric Medicine

4) Effects of resistance exercise in bone health.

Hong, A.R. and Sang-Wan, K. (2018)

Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism

5) Resistance training to improve type 2 diabetes; Working towards a prescription for the future.

Pesta, D.H. et al. (2017)

Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism