Font Size
A
A
A
2
...

Strength Training (cont.)

Why Resistance Training?

The benefits of resistance exercise are well documented, and ongoing research continues to prove that it's an important activity for Americans to be engaged in. Long ago in hunter-gatherer societies, humans' muscles got a workout by building shelter, hunting, farming, and all the other manual chores necessary to live. Today, however, we have engineered inactivity into our lives with labor-saving devices to the extent that our muscles rarely need to be pushed very hard. We don't rake leaves or cut grass or shovel snow by hand; we don't climb stairs or even walk in airports (people movers do it for us!); we don't wash our clothes or our dishes or even push a vacuum by hand (Have you seen the robotic vacuum Roomba?), and we spend more and more time in front of our computers and televisions than we do outdoors raking leaves, playing touch football, baseball, soccer, hiking, or participating in any other recreational activities. Research shows that physical inactivity is the second leading preventable cause of death in the United States, and it's literally killing us.

Why Do Resistance Exercise?

  • It builds muscle strength and tone. Humans lose 5 pounds of muscle every decade after age 30.
  • The number of muscle fibers declines with age. From age 30 to age 70 we can lose more than 25% of the type 2 muscle fibers in our bodies (type 2 fibers are our strength fibers). Resistance exercise can slow down or even reverse the aging process by building muscle mass and strength.
  • It's been shown to build bone. Osteoporosis, a condition of accelerated bone mineral loss which leads to fractures, can be a crippling disease, particularly in women (although men get it, too), and research on resistance exercise suggests that it can build bone even in the elderly.
  • There is some evidence that resistance exercise helps lower moderately high blood pressure.
  • More strength can lead to fewer falls in the elderly.
  • Resistance exercise can raise metabolic rate, an important factor in maintaining body weight.
  • It's never too late to start. In one study of elderly men and women (mean age 87) who lifted weights three times per week for 10 weeks, strength increased a whopping 113%! The improvement in strength enabled the elderly participants to also walk faster (12% faster than before the study), climb 28% more stairs, and it even caused the muscles in their thighs to increase by more than 2.5%.

How Much Resistance Exercise Should I Do?

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that resistance training should be progressive in nature (for example, follow the principle of progressive overload - see below for an explanation), individualized, and provide a stimulus to all the major muscle groups (chest, back, shoulders, arms, abdominals, and legs). They recommend that beginners do one set of eight to 10 exercises for the major muscle groups, eight to 12 repetitions (reps) to fatigue, two to three days per week (multiple-set regimens may provide greater benefits if time allows). For older and more frail people (approximately 50-60 years of age and above), they suggest that 10-15 repetitions may be more appropriate.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/24/2016

Must Read Articles Related to Strength Training

Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic Exercise Aerobic exercise is moderate physical activity that's sustained for a few minutes with the goal of improving health. Walking, biking, swimming, dancing, and jog...learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Resistance Training:

Resistance Training - Exercises

Please describe your resistance training exercise program.

Strength Training - Exercise

What are your favorite strength training exercises?


Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Therapeutic Exercise »

DeLateur defined therapeutic exercise as the prescription of bodily movement to correct an impairment, improve musculoskeletal function, or maintain a state of well-being

Read More on Medscape Reference »


Medical Dictionary