Strength Training for Older Women

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
May 02, 2023
Strength Training for Older Women

If you're a woman, strength training can help you avoid falls, manage blood sugar, build bones, stay cheerful, and reduce fat. Here's what you should know.

Studies generally show that strength training is a good way to prevent falls, boosting your flexibility and balance. Women have less muscle than men to begin with, and their muscles naturally weaken as they age. Inactive adults experience a 3-to-8 percent loss of muscle mass each decade, and their metabolism slows down, causing fat to accumulate.

Although walking, swimming, and other aerobic exercise uses your muscles, they don’t go far enough to fight that natural muscle loss. One large study found that 24 percent of women in their 60s become unhealthily weak. Once they reach their 80s, 43 to 60 percent of women have grown frail.

Strength training can also reduce the symptoms of arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, back pain, and depressionaccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


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When people set out to lose weight, they think about changing what they eat and cutting down on calories, and some people increase their aerobic exercise. But again, building muscle is the missing piece for many dieters.

If you build your muscles, you will have an easier time both losing fat and keeping it off. Muscle consumes calories and raises your metabolic rate. In fact, strength training can provide up to a 15 percent increase in metabolic rate.

Building muscle will also help your body manage blood sugar and avoid or manage diabetes, while strengthening your bones. Bone strength is especially important for older women, helping to prevent falls.

Just 10 weeks of resistance training can make a difference, increasing your muscle, boosting your metabolism, and cutting as much as four pounds of fat. Strength training is also good for your heart: Leaner bodies have less risk of heart problems. 

The American Heart Association recommends both aerobic exercise and strength training to reduce your risk of heart disease and as therapy if you have had a heart attack or stroke.

Strength training is also good for your mood, especially if other illnesses are dragging you down. Feeling strong and meeting your goals boosts confidence, and the effort tends to improve sleep and reduce symptoms of insomnia.

Your body strength is within your power to change, when many other things may not be.  

program at Tufts University sponsored by the CDC can get you started with questions to score your strength and identify your goals, advice on how to find equipment, and a set of exercises for the first seven weeks.

You can begin without using weights, doing squatsbird dogs, and other strength-building moves. After a certain point, using weights, like kettle balls, will allow you to advance. Ask for a session with a trainer if you belong to a gym.

If you’ll be using home weights, you might pay for a private session to learn safe technique. One set of eight to 12 repetitions, working your muscles to the point of fatigue, is a reasonable goal for each muscle group.

Rest two days between workouts, and aim to exercise each muscle group at least two times per week. If you push and injure yourself, you’ll lose time, so take it slow.


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May 02, 2023

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN