Resistance Training And Its Effect On Older Adults
This article was reviewed by Mark C, DPT.
Get Strong. Stay Independent.
Older adults exhibit a progressive decrease in muscle mass with aging, termed sarcopenia. An estimated 40-50% decrease in muscle mass is seen between ages 25-80. Although a variety of factors may influence strength loss with age, the majority of loss is a result of decreased number and size of muscle cells. While sarcopenia is a normal part of aging, there is a great deal of evidence to support the use of resistance and aerobic exercise training to decrease the rate and degree of loss. (ACSM). Loss of power in the older adult can have a significant impact daily activity and falls.
Is it safe to lift for older adults even at a higher intensity?
Resistance training is a well established means to maintain muscle mass, especially as we age. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends completing 2-3 sessions per week with 8-10 exercises. However, we know that strength benefits can be obtained with fewer exercises, especially for beginners. For older adults and those with osteoporosis, commonly held beliefs often called for lower weights for many repetitions (10-15+).
However, recent evidence from the LIFTMOR trial suggest that higher intensity resistance training can be safe and effective for those with low bone minimal density. The woman in this study completed 30 minute supervised resistance training 2x/wk for 8 months. Results showed improved height, bone mineral density in femur and low back, and increased functional performance.