The benefits of strength training – and how it helps healthy ageing

Regular strength training offers many benefits to physical and mental wellbeing.

Strength training is one of the best forms of exercise you can do – and it doesn’t just mean lifting weights.

It can take many forms but always involves working against opposing force or resistance. This might mean using your body weight, light dumbbells, resistance bands, kettlebells or a barbell.

Maintaining muscle protects the body and helps keep you mobile as you age. It also has a positive impact on your health and mental wellbeing.  

You don’t need to spend hours in the gym and, combined with cardio exercise (which primarily works your heart and lungs), it’s a great way to improve overall fitness. Here are just some of the many benefits. 

Man with dumbbellsCredit: Shutterstock / – Yuri A
Strength training offers many benefits

It makes you stronger

As we age, our muscle mass begins to decline. Not only can this lead to a loss of mobility, but it also puts us at an increased risk of falls, frailty and even death.

However, the good news is this can be kept at bay. “Lifting weights or using resistance bands is the very best way to counteract sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass),” says Liv Wallis, personal trainer, bodybuilder and sports therapist at Livfit.

“It will help increase strength and endurance and allow you to continue with normal everyday activities for as long as possible,” she says. 

This doesn’t mean you have to become a powerlifter, says Wallis – but she does maintain that “lifting will improve everything”.

“Just two to three 30-minute sessions a week will help retain or regain muscle strength. It really is a case of ‘use it or lose it’.” 

If you’re unsure about getting started, she recommends consulting a personal trainer or trying an at-home workout app.


It protects your bones

“As we age, many of us are warned about the woes of osteoporosis,” Wallis says. “This is a health condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break.

“Osteoporosis develops over many years and, as older adults, we will only ever know if we have it after a fall that causes a break.” 

While your genes affect the strength of your skeleton, it’s your lifestyle that affects how healthy your bones are. It’s crucial to protect them in order to prevent osteoporosis from occurring.  

The NHS recommends two or more strength training sessions per week, working all the major muscle groups. This will improve bone density, making a break or fall far less likely.

Your skeleton also protects your internal organs and gives your muscles something to attach to. Regular strength training reduces inflammation around the joints, helping conditions like osteoarthritis too.  

Eases symptoms of menopause

Perimenopause (the transitional time before menopause) can bring a host of symptoms as a woman’s reproductive hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, begin to decline.

Exercise in menopause is important not only to protect against conditions like osteoporosis (which is much more common in post-menopausal women), but it can also help with many other symptoms.

Aching joints can be eased with regular movement. If you can’t face the thought of lifting weights, you could opt for strength-based Pilates or yoga for menopause instead.

Libido is also boosted by resistance training for both men and women; the release of endorphins along with physical changes makes us naturally feel more desirable.  

Anxiety and depression are often linked to perimenopause as our bodies change and hormone levels fluctuate. Strength training can help ease these symptoms – not just because of the feel-good hormones that are released, but by giving us time away from busy everyday life.

Female lifting weights at homeCredit: Shutterstock / photoroyalty
Strength training improves bone health

Increases testosterone – for men and women

Testosterone is produced in all bodies, but men have more of it than women. Regardless of your biological sex, it’s an important hormone for all of us. Not only can it help protect against type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity, but testosterone is also important for brain function and for sexual function in men.  

Strength training has a bigger impact on testosterone levels in men than women, but it’s important for all of us to do what we can to maintain testosterone production since it helps us to build muscle. 

It’s great for weight loss

“Strength training increases our metabolic rate, which helps to increase the number of calories our bodies burn,” Wallis explains. “If our bodies are burning more calories, we are more likely to manage our weight and waistline better, which lessens the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.” 

The more muscle your body has, the more efficient it is at burning fat. That doesn’t mean you have to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger (unless you’d like to). Just two or three strength training sessions a week are enough to see a difference. It’s worth remembering, though, that the only way to lose weight is to create a calorie deficit, and the best way to do that is through what you eat. 


Improves mobility and flexibility

Strength training helps you to move better, with many movement patterns replicating activities of daily living.

For example, every time you sit or stand, you’re doing a squat. Lifting heavy shopping bags is the same as doing a deadlift. Reaching into kitchen cupboards replicates an overhead press… the list goes on.

The more you practise, refine and improve these movement patterns, the better you can move in daily life.  

Wallis points out it also “improves cores strength and posture, which in turn helps our balance and reduces the risk of falls”.

Through regular workouts you learn how your body moves in space, what it’s capable of and how to place it so that injury doesn’t occur. These are all valuable lessons as you age, and ones that keep you healthy and safe. 

Men doing squatsCredit: Shutterstock / Jono Erasmus
Body weight exercises can build strength

Reduces pain

Many of us deal with aches and pains daily. It seems to be one of the perils of getting older. But instead of increasing pain, resistance training can reduce it. The more you move, the more you keep your joints supple and strong.  

Spending less time sitting means your lower back muscles have a chance to strengthen (by holding you upright), and your hamstrings and glutes (butt muscles) can support your torso.

Over time, pain in these areas is lessened. The result of less pain? A new-found freedom of movement, which can also encourage you to continue exercising. 

Improves mental wellbeing

Being active and social are great ways to combat depression, anxiety and loneliness.

“The more you train, the more you will discover confidence in yourself,” Wallis says. “You’re able to do more, and your mood will improve. Lifting weights also increases the ‘happy hormones’ in our brains and leaves us feeling good.”

She adds: “The gym is a great place to meet like-minded people and so your social circle increases – another boost to mental wellbeing.”  

Many gyms also have cafés, so a post-workout coffee with new friends is a bonus and a great reward for all your hard work. 


As we’ve seen, there are so many benefits to strength or resistance training. It’s over to Wallis for perhaps the best reason of all…

“While I like the way my body looks because of strength training, I don’t train to look good on the beach or in a little black dress. I train for my ‘old lady bones’, for longevity, for autonomy and to not be a burden to my family.  

“I want to be able to climb the stairs in my home well into my eighties, get up off the toilet without grab rails and reach my feet to do up my shoe laces. If you don’t have the strength or mobility to do these things, they can be very hard.

“It’s not just for me, either. I know that in the future, my training means I will be able to run after my grandchildren and get up off the floor after having built the latest Lego model with them.”  

Becky Fuller

Written by Becky Fuller she/her


Becky Fuller is a fully qualified Personal Trainer, specialising in strength and conditioning for over 50s. Becky’s focus is helping people to become stronger both in body and mind, and to move well without pain. Becky also has many years’ experience working as a freelance journalist, writing for a wide variety of publications such as Screen Rant, Geek Feed, and Daily Actor. She also regularly reviews theatre productions for UKTW.

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