Adults failing to meet muscle strength standards

Adults failing to meet muscle strength standards

Experts say exercising shouldn’t just be only about cardio. According to a new study, from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, not enough adults older than 45-years-old are picking up a dumbbell or hopping onto a machine to strengthen their muscles.

The study found that less than 24 percent said they met strengthening recommendations set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). That figure dips even lower to 21.7 percent for seniors who are older than 65.

Both the American College of Sports Medicine and the HHS suggest targeting all major muscle groups at least twice per week.  Researchers focused on muscle-targeting exercises where you use your own body weight such as machines, free weights or elastic bands.

Along with increasing the aesthetic look of the body, muscle strengthening improves physical functions and can have positive effects on blood pressure and bone density. Participation in strength training can reduce illness and promote independent living among older adults, according to the HHS.

“You’re never too old to start an exercise program,” says Brandon Nemeth, fitness specialist at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago. “It’s been proven that a sedentary lifestyle causes older adults to lose the everyday ability to complete normal tasks. Without the exercise component, older adults can see an increase in illness, increase in hospital stays, more medications, and decrease in bone density.”

Nemeth suggests walking, water aerobics, senior fitness classes, chair bound fitness exercises and yoga.

“Exercising in a group setting is an outstanding way for older adults to have that social experience while improving overall health,” he adds.

The data for the study was collected by all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam. The study showed while adults struggle to meet strength training guidelines, more than 51 percent hit their cardio targets.

Only 17.2 percent of adults in this sample met both the physical activity and strength training recommendations. The data also showed men were 22 percent more likely to reach the standards than women.

“What people need to understand is that exercise is medicine for overall health,” Nemeth says. “No matter an individual’s condition, age or gender, they can benefit from exercise. Exercise is the absolute key to healthy aging and maintaining quality of life.”

Related Posts



  1. It’s very important for older adults to be healthy and stay fit. Also, the exercise tips are very helpful for them to strengthen their muscles.

  2. Thank you Courtney. It is important for seniors to stay motivated and in shape. It can prevent so many injuries in the future.

  3. Strength training should be done not only by seniors, but all adults.
    The training needs to be done to enhance the cardio component of one’s exercise regimen.
    Doing a strength training exercise for a specific muscle group for 30 repetitions is improving the endurance of the muscle as well as strength. The endurance in the muscles throughout the body
    has a positive impact on the benefits of cardio exercise.
    It’s important for seniors to know exercising regularly slows the aging process by 80%. Combine it with a nutritious diet to, hopefully, increase one’s longevity.
    An upper body strength training routine using dumbells can be done in 20-30 minutes.

  4. Too bad the author did not think it important enough to list the standards he refers to. That would be helpful info. I’m 77 and work out at the gym 3x week about 45-50 minutes per.

  5. I stopped doing it because they moved the machines where I work out in front of the mirrors so you can’t do it without looking at yourself. Nope. No mirrors. I”m sure it’s not good, but working out is hard enough without having to watch yourself do it.

    • Working out in front of a mirror is a great way to ensure you’re using proper form. Proper form is key to getting results and avoiding injury. I’ve never understood why a gym would be without mirrors.

      • Then I’ll bet you’re not 40 pounds overweight, tied to a desk job and regretting an aging body — because those of us who are have no desire to look at ourselves. It’s actually a DISincentive to going to the gym. Concern about form can wait until I’m actually comfortable with the idea of going to the gym and being seen by skinny young people who think I got this way on purpose, and that won’t happen overnight. Besides, I’ve never had anyone at a gym tell me exactly what the right form was anyway (there’s never a trainer around when you want one, unless you’re paying an absurd amount of money for your gym membership). Bear this in mind: most people who run gyms are in it to make money, not to make sure you do your exercises properly. They don’t see themselves as a service industry. I know this from years of struggling at one gym or another, and it’s this fact that causes a lot of people to fail and drop out of exercising or going to a gym. Bally was notorious for this.

  6. Strong and toned muscles are important for your overall health. Loose the fat and build the muscles will not only make you feel good but, you look great, too.

  7. Jessika Castillo October 1, 2014 at 10:12 am · Reply

    Great information. I’d recommend starting resistance training, etc. in the water for those who aren’t quite ready to hop on over to the gym.

  8. Allan – the study which published the standards is available via hyperlink in the article. Click on the highlighted word “study” in the first paragraph and it will link you directly.

  9. Toni Mooney Gardner October 6, 2014 at 12:47 pm · Reply

    Thanks for sharing this vital information on strengthening training.

  10. Brandon Nemeth. Thanks for the helpful hints. We still miss you at the LGH pool.

  11. Here’s a thought: local park districts should stop charging anyone over 50 for exercise classes and access to gym equipment. It’s an insult that I have to pay high property taxes in my district and then also get charged for actually using a park district facility (like I’d have that much disposable cash anyway, considering what they charge). Besides, I bet you’ll find that most of the people who really need the exercise don’t have the disposable income for a gym membership anyway. The rich don’t need help — they can afford personal trainers. I sure can’t.

    You want to get more older people to exercise? Start making it free and make it more user friendly to those who aren’t showing off their bodies to potential dates! Most of us with imperfect bodies over 40 don’t want to be caught dead at the same gym where twentysomethings, ambitious yuppies, or two-percenters rule, because we’ll feel unwelcome there for a variety of reasons. I don’t want to be stuck with the silver-sneaker crowd, necessarily, but if I exercise, I’m not there to flirt, get a latte, or show off to a bunch of marathon runners. I just want to be able to use the equipment and get some instruction now and then. Good luck with that.

  12. Strength Standards January 3, 2015 at 12:00 pm · Reply

    Strength comes with time, something a lot of people don’t have. What’s lacking is motivation to meet those standards!

Subscribe to health enews newsletter

About the Author

health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.