How to build strength as you get older

For many people, retirement marks a time of new beginnings – more time with family, new hobbies, greater opportunities to travel. But it can also be a time for finding new ways to maintain or build your strength while discovering talents you never knew you had.


How much exercise should I be doing?

Studies show we lose 3-5 per cent of muscle every year from the age of 30 if we don’t take steps to maintain it. Losing that strength puts us at greater risk of falls and other ill-health so it’s important to make maintaining strength a priority in your life.

Official guidelines call for everyone to do activities that strengthen your muscles and bones twice a week. Meeting that target will help you not only prevent falls, but improve your mood, help your sleeping patterns and bring benefits for your overall health and wellbeing.

Tips for starting a new activity; Find something you enjoy so that you’ll keep going; Set goals for yourself – big or small – to keep you motivated; Pace yourself – start slowly and gradually build up; It’s ok to ache but if pain persists, ease back and go slower and Need more motivation and support? Find an exercise buddy!


Everyday strength

You don’t need to lift huge weights to strengthen your muscles. It can be done through many everyday activities like: Carrying shopping, Washing your car and Digging in the garden.

If you incorporate those into your daily routine, it won’t be long before you start to feel the benefits.
But as with any activity, our bodies adapt quickly. So always make sure you’re challenging yourself – carrying the shopping a little further, for example.

Small amounts can add up to a big difference over time and keep you stronger for longer.


New beginnings

There are so many activities out there that you may have wanted to do in the past but never got around to, and retirement is a great opportunity to put that right.

Activities that have the most benefit for muscle and bone strengthening include: Ball games, Racket sports, Dance, Nordic walking and Resistance training.

But if none of those appeal to you then there’s plenty more to choose from – why not try playing the drums?
Whatever you do, just make sure it has a strength component.
Ask your physio for suggestions, visit the BBC’s Get Inspired website, check out the best strength and balance exercises you can do or watch the video below for suggestions on activities you can take up.


Find a Rugby physiotherapist

If you live in the UK and want to see a physio there are two main routes to access treatment: Through the NHS. Through private practitioners and in some areas you can self-refer yourself to see a physio without having to go through your GP. Ask your GP practice whether this is available where you live.

Strengthening your muscles as you age will improve your mood, help your sleeping patterns and bring benefits for your overall health and wellbeing.

Getting started is easy, try out the strength and balance six exercises below. Get on your feet and do them daily – or at least twice a week!

There are so many ways that you can build activity into your daily life. Read our Never too Late guide for more ideas and advice from physiotherapists.


Strength and balance exercises

Sit to stand

Sit tall near the front of a chair with your feet slightly back. Lean forwards slightly and stand up (with hands on the chair if needed). Step back until your legs touch the chair then slowly lower yourself back into the chair.
Repeat 10 times

Picture 1 - Staying strong as you get older

Heel raises

Stand tall, holding the back of a sturdy kitchen type chair or kitchen sink, then lift your heels off the floor, taking your weight onto your big toes. Hold for three seconds, then lower with control.
Repeat 10 times

Picture 2 - Staying strong as you get older

Toe raises

Stand tall holding the same support, then raise your toes – taking your weight on your heels. Don’t stick your bottom out. Hold for three seconds, then lower with control.
Repeat 10 times

Picture 3 - Staying strong as you get older

One leg stand

Stand close to your support and hold it with one hand. Balance on one leg, keeping the support knee soft and your posture upright. Hold the position for 10 seconds.
Repeat on the other leg

Picture 4 - Staying strong as you get older

Heel-toe stand

Stand tall, with one hand on your support. Put one foot directly in front of the other to make a straight line. Look ahead, take your hand off the support and balance for 10 seconds. Take the front foot back to hip width apart and place the other foot in front.
Balance for 10 seconds

Picture 5 - Staying strong as you get older

Heel-toe walking

Stand tall, with one hand on a support like a kitchen cabinet. Look ahead and walk 10 steps forwards, placing one foot directly in front of the other so that the feet form a straight line. Aim for a steady walking action.

Take the feet back to hip width apart, turn around and repeat the steps in the other direction.

Picture 6 - Staying strong as you get older

Important notes

Make sure the chair you’re using is sturdy
Wear supportive shoes
If you experience chest pain, dizziness or severe shortness of breath, stop and call you GP or 111
A slight soreness the day after is quite normal


DISCLAIMER: The activities described here should not cause any harm. They might not, however, be suitable for all people, particularly those at risk of falls and fractures. Consult a chartered physiotherapist or your GP before embarking on any new fitness regime, and if you do experience pain or discomfort as a result of any of the exercises, stop immediately.