Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

7 Reasons Why Strength Training Is Key to a Long Life

In just one hour a week, you can change your health and increase your longevity

spinner image yoga mat alarm clock and hand weights along with a dish featuring servings of proteins including tofu chicken yogurt and cheese
Sue Tallon


Everyone knows that cardio exercise is crucial for overall health. But the secret to staying strong and vital for life isn’t just in walking, running, biking, swimming and other forms of aerobic fitness. It’s in your muscles. In a 2021 review of 16 studies from around the globe, researchers found that just 30 to 60 minutes a week of muscle-strengthening, or “resistance,” exercise increased life expectancy by 10 to 17 percent. What counts as muscle-strengthening exercise? Lifting weights, of course, but also yoga, Pilates, calisthenics and even carrying the groceries (or a grandchild).

Join the AARP Weight Loss After 50 Challenge

Learn what small changes you can make for health and wellness as we age.  Step by step, we'll:

  • Show you the secrets to losing weight
  • Give you guides to healthy foods
  • Provide dozens of delicious new recipes to try
  • Help you embrace a whole new way of eating

Get Started

Eating protein in the proper amounts, at the proper time, is also crucial for preserving muscle. As we outline in AARP’s New York Times best-selling book, The Whole Body Resetscience shows that women 50 and older need at least 25 grams of protein at every meal (30 grams for men) to stimulate protein synthesis, the process for building and maintaining muscle. Studies show that when people in their 60s combined this style of eating, known as “protein timing,” with resistance exercise, their bodies respond as if they were in their 20s. Here’s why combining resistance exercise and protein timing is so important for your health.

1. You’ll keep your brain healthy

One study looked at 970 people living in senior communities who had no evidence of cognitive decline. Researchers put the subjects through a series of strength tests, measuring their upper and lower extremities. Over the next 3.6 years, 15 percent of the subjects developed Alzheimer’s disease. But their risk was strongly determined by where they fell on the strength scale: For every 1 point increase in muscle strength, a subject’s risk of Alzheimer’s dropped by 43 percent.

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership— $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine. Find out how much you could save in a year with a membership. Learn more.

Join Now

2. You’ll reduce your risk of future ​weight gain

A low level of muscular fitness was associated with higher odds of gaining at least 22 pounds over the ensuing 20 years, one study found.

3. You’ll keep your blood pressure ​under control

In another study, higher levels of muscular strength were associated with a reduced risk of developing high blood pressure among men with prehypertension.

4. You’ll slash your risk of heart disease

Several studies have shown that the greater your muscular strength, the lower your chance of developing metabolic syndrome — a constellation of health issues including excess abdominal fat, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high cholesterol, all of which are tied to heart disease. And the greater your muscular strength, the lower your levels of inflammatory compounds, which may also help to lower your risk of heart disease.

See more Health & Wellness offers >

5. You’ll beat back diabetes

Higher muscle mass has been associated with better insulin sensitivity and lower risk of developing diabetes or prediabetes; in a study of 13,644 subjects, those with the lowest percentage of muscle were 63 percent more likely to have diabetes than those with the highest percentage.

spinner image book cover of the whole body reset by stephen perrine with heidi skolnik

What's in the Book? ​

The Whole Body Reset includes:​

  • Scores of recipes and snack suggestions
  • A guide to dining out
  • A 10-day jump-start plan 
  • A fitness plan that requires no equipment​

Through March 31, 2024, enjoy 40 percent off  The Whole Body Reset paperback, developed by AARP, when purchasing from the publisher. To redeem, click here* and use promo code AARP40 at checkout.

6. You’ll be better poised to battle ​cancer

Breast cancer patients with high muscle mass have a greater chance of surviving the disease than those who have lower muscle mass, according to a study of 3,241 women (median age: 54) with stage 2 or 3 invasive breast cancer. And in a study of men who had undergone a radical prostatectomy to treat prostate cancer, those with the lowest levels of muscle were more likely to see a recurrence of the cancer and more likely to die of the disease.

7. You’ll stay happier

A study of 3,000 adults ages 54 to 89 found that having a strong grip was inversely associated with symptoms of depression.

Strong, healthy and happy: If that sounds like the future you imagine for yourself, it’s time to make your muscles a top priority. Make sure you’re getting 25 to 30 grams of protein at every meal, and talk to your doctor about starting a muscle-building fitness program.

10-Minute All-in-One, Full-Body Workout

Adapted with permission from The Whole Body Reset: Your Weight-Loss Plan for a Flat Belly, Optimum Health, and a Body You’ll Love—at Midlife and Beyond, by Stephen Perrine with Heidi Skolnik, published by Simon & Schuster. Copyright 2022 by AARP.

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?