Too few older Americans participate in resistance training due to fear, confusion and a lack of consensus to guide implementation, according to a new position paper from the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

There’s a common myth that resistance exercise is risky for seniors, said the paper’s lead author, Maren Fragala, Ph.D., in a statement. But in most cases, the benefits of resistance training largely outweigh the risks when training is properly implemented, she said.

Resistance training combats loss of muscle strength, mass and function, reducing seniors’ vulnerability to catastrophic injuries, Fragala asserted. In the paper, she and her colleagues include 11 resistance training applications. They also show how exercise programs can be adapted for older adults with disabilities – or those residing in assisted living and skilled nursing facilities. 

“Aging, even in the absence of chronic disease, is associated with a variety of biological changes that can contribute to decreases in skeletal muscle mass, strength and function,” Fragala explained. “Such losses decrease physiologic resilience and increase vulnerability to catastrophic events.”

“The exciting part about this position statement is that it provides evidence-based recommendations for resistance training in older adults to promote health and functional benefits, while preventing and minimizing fears,” Fragala said.

Read the resistance training position paper.