Improving the health of adults over 50, through physical activity
First Step To Active Health Your First Step
Your First Step
  Getting Started
  Step 1: Cardio
  Step 2: Flexibility
> Step 3: Strength
  Step 4: Balance
  How to Progress
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Step 3: Begin Strengthening Activities

WHY: Strengthening activities improve or maintain muscle & bone mass, improve balance & reduce fall risk, improve cardiovascular endurance, and improve functional ability, such as lifting objects, getting out of a chair, carrying groceries, or opening jars. Older adults have more potential gain from strengthening than any other mode of exercise.

WHAT: Use large muscle groups (arms, shoulders, chest, abdomen, back, hips, and legs), against resistance of body weight or external resistance (weights, machines, elastic bands). Be sure to balance the strength of opposite muscle groups (for example, strengthen both the front and back of the shoulder).

WHEN: 2-3 days of the week (don't strength train on consecutive days)

WHERE TO START: Choose strengthening activities based on needs (for example, someone with less upper body strength may require more upper body exercises) Start with 2-3 strengthening activities for each area: the upper body, lower body, and back. Perform 1 set of 10 repetitions at a resistance that makes you tired at the last repetition, but be sure to maintain proper form! Alternately, use the Exertion Scale to maintain your intensity at a level between 12 and 14.

Rest for two minutes between exercises. Maintain normal breathing patterns, breathing once with each repetition. Soreness is to be expected with any type of activity that is not familiar, but it should pass.

HOW TO PROGRESS: Progress by increasing repetitions to 15 per exercise, then increase from 1 to 2 sets of each exercise. Increase resistance to allow fatigue with last repetition, or to maintain Exertion level at 12-14. As your strength improves, you will notice you will be able to do more activity at the same intensity. You must progressively increase resistance to increase strength.

GOAL: The goal for healthy older adults is to perform strengthening activities 2-3 days per week for 1-2 sets of 8-10 exercises for 10-15 repetitions to fatigue.

WHEN TO MOVE TO STEP 4: Once you feel comfortable with strengthening activities, begin to incorporate balance activities into your daily routines (see below) as soon as possible and begin a specific balance program during the week.

  • Upper Body: Biceps, Triceps, Chest Press, Overhead Reach, Grip (for lifting, carrying, & reaching)
  • Back: Seated Row, Pull Down, Back Pull, Upright Row (for posture, lifting and pulling)
  • Lower Body: Hip Lift, Leg Press, Chair Squat, Dorsiflexion (for gait, balance, and mobility)

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