Harvard Health Letter

The new medicine: Muscle strength

It's not just for bodybuilders. Strength training is critical for all of us.

When it comes to exercise, regular brisk 30-minute walks through your neighborhood are no longer enough. Research shows that strength training is also key to a longer, healthier life. "Strength training in older adults is very important," says Kelly Macauley, a clinical instructor with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions. "It can slow and reverse age-related declines in muscle mass and muscle endurance, which can keep older adults healthier, longer."

Benefits of stronger muscles

As we age, our muscle tissue begins to decrease. By age 70, most of us have lost a quarter of our muscle strength. That's why strength training (also called resistance training and weight training) is so vital. Research shows it can help reduce the risk of falls, osteoporosis, back pain, depression, and even arthritis. "Increased strength increases stability around joints," says Macauley. "That helps to reduce pain associated with arthritis."

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