Benefits of Weight-Bearing Exercise for Older Adults


Older couple walking

by Kate Feinberg Robins

Exercise for Older Adults

As we age, it may be tempting to focus exclusively on safe, low-impact exercise. But weight-bearing exercise is equally important.

After age 40, the effects of inactivity increase. When we are inactive, our muscle mass, strength, bone density, and heart health all decline at a higher rate than when we were younger. After age 40, we use it or lose it.

Non-weight-bearing exercise helps us build and maintain muscle tone and strength.

Weight-bearing exercise builds and maintains our bone density and heart health.

What is Weight-Bearing Exercise?

Any exercise where you support your own weight with your muscle strength is a weight-bearing exercise. This includes walking, running, dancing, capoeira, and many yoga poses.

What is Non-Weight-Bearing Exercise?

Any exercise where most of your weight is supported by water, the floor, a bicycle, or other apparatus is non-weight-bearing exercise. This includes swimming, Pilates, and cycling.

Non-weight-bearing exercise brings lower risk of injury (excluding environmental factors such as traffic). This kind of exercise is appropriate for recovering from injury or illness. It’s highly effective in keeping your muscles toned and aligned to avoid injury. For many of us, swimming and cycling are also great fun!

Active individuals over 60 can be stronger and healthier than inactive people under 40. We just have to keep moving, both on our feet and off!

Source: “How can exercise training benefit older adults?” From Practical Guide to Exercise Physiology-2nd Edition by Robert Murray & W. Larry Kenney. Human Kinetics.


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