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June 21, 2011 / Angela McCuiston

Strength training counteracts muscular atrophy in old age « Human Kinetics Sport, Health & Fitness Blog

Strength training counteracts muscular atrophy in old age « Human Kinetics Sport, Health & Fitness Blog.

Good news! Another study has proven the positive results of strength training in older/elderly adults.  You are never to old to exercise!

If you would like to read the entire study, you may do so here.

Some interesting things to note from the study:

Effects of strength (resistance) training in elderly people

Clinical as well as epidemiological studies showed the effect of athletic activity on morbidity and mortality indicators in elderly people. Laboratory-based studies showed that 20 to 30 minutes of strength (resistance) training, 2 to 3 times per week, has positive effects on risk factors for cardiovascular disorders, cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis (69, e2). Furthermore, progressive strength (resistance) training is accepted in treating sarcopenia and to improve postural control (10).

The results of a recent Cochrane review including 121 randomized controlled trials (with some 6700 participants) showed that in most studies, strength (resistance) training is done 2 to 3 times per week. As a rule, this results in a notable increase in muscle strength, a moderate increase in the distance covered walking, a better performance for rising from a sitting position, and a subjectively higher mobility. Furthermore, increased stamina, an increased mitochondrial capacity, and a drop in the resting heart rate have been shown (6).

Physical activity can lead to an increase in, or reduction in the loss of, bone density, particularly in elderly postmenopausal women (7, e4). In low bone density, such effects on the spine as well as the hips have been shown (7). Adequate stimulation of osteogenesis and an increase in bone density can be achieved especially by means of very intense loading. However, results differ with regard to efficient dosage of training. Bemben et al. studied the effects of 8 months of maximum strength (resistance) training (3 times/week) and strength (resistance) training with additional whole-body vibration training on bone metabolism (among others, on alkaline phosphatase), bone density (DXA), and muscle force in postmenopausal women (11). They found greater muscle force in both intervention groups, but no differences regarding bone metabolism and bone density. Burke et al. found after a multimodal 8-week exercise program (balancing exercises and strength [resistance] training in postmenopausal women with confirmed osteoporosis) with high compliance rates an improvement of isometric muscle force in the ankle joint and knee joint muscles as well as balancing skills (12).

So, ladies, if you want to reduce or slow down your bone loss you have to

1) strength train

2) BE CONSISTANT, You can’t go once a week, or every couple of weeks, it’s 3 times a week, every week for 8 weeks MINIMUM.  This does not include the elliptical machine.

A current topic of discussion is whether or not the effects of strength (resistance) training also translate for elderly patients in different clinical groups (e5). Kingsley et al. observed after 12 weeks of strength (resistance) training in female patients with fibromyalgia an increase in strength and a reduction in symptoms (13). Mangione et al. studied the effect of 10 weeks of twice weekly, high-intensity, outpatient strength (resistance) training after a neck of femur fracture (14). One year after the fracture, the strength performance capacity, walking speed, the distance covered in 6 minutes’ walking, and the functional and medical results were statistically significantly better than in the control group. Similar results have been observed for patients with arthritis of the large joints of the leg (15, 16, e6). High-intensity strength (resistance) training seems therefore also useful and efficient in the treatment and after-treatment of selected symptoms in elderly patients.

The frequency of falls and injuries rises from the 5th decade of life. After the age of 65 years, 30% of people fall at least once a year (10). Orr postulates in the results of a systematic literature review a negative effect of insufficiency of muscle on postural control in elderly people, but causality should not be assumed as a given (10, e7). Daniels showed in this context that isolated strength (resistance) training is less effective for postural control than multimodal programs that include different components, such as balance, strength, flexibility, and stamina with mostly higher intensities. More recent studies have investigated whether sensorimotor training may be beneficial in addition to mere strength (resistance) training (1719). Alfieri et al. conducted multisensory training in persons of about 70 years of age for 12 weeks, which included optimizing the stability of posture, strength (resistance) training, sensorimotor training on uneven surfaces, and coordinating tasks (17). The results showed that multisensory training is superior to mere strength (resistance) training with regard to the variable of postural control. Extending strength (resistance) training by sensorimotor training, or adding this component, is therefore beneficial in elderly people.

My certifiying agency, the National Academy of Sports Medicine firmly believes in incorporating all these modalities into a training program: core training, balance/stability work, flexibility/stretching AND strength training. And that’s what you get when you get a training plan from me: a personalized training program incorporating all these different modalities that is tailored to fit your lifestyle and your needs.

The discussion about using strength (resistance) training in a beneficial manner is often linked with the debate of possible negative side effects and contraindications, especially when elderly patients are concerned. Diverse studies that we have already cited have shown, however, that the rate of side effects is very low if the dose is adapted to the patient. Liu and Latham have conducted a systematic literature search of the adverse effects of strength (resistance) training (20). Only 25% of included studies reported adverse effects. The most common ones were musculoskeletal problems after training. In some studies, such adverse effects resulted in the subject being excluded from the study, but no precise exclusion rates can be verified.

Again, another statement that confirms the benefits outweigh the detriments of strength training if the dose is adapted.

And. my absolute favorite quote of the article:

The view that at an advanced age, load bearing intensity should be reduced in order to avoid injuries and chronic overuse is widespread. However, this effect is not supported by current evidence, and several working groups have pointed out the need for higher intensities for elderly as well as young people.

AKA: You are never too old to start training!  You’re not too young, either, so what are you waiting for?   Contact me and let me help design a plan just for you!

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