Every fifteen seconds an older adult falls and receives emergency care, with fatal results occurring every twenty-nine seconds. As we age our basic abilities like stability decline, making everyday tasks increasingly more difficult and dangerous. So what can we do? LIFT. Resistance training offers numerous health benefits, including improvements in strength, stability, and power. Making simple tasks like climbing stairs and rising from chairs possible.
In a study by Gennuso et al. resistance training improved physical function and stability among elderly subjects with reduced physical abilities. Twenty five subjects where randomly placed into two groups, a control and a resistance group. With the resistance group performing lat pull downs, legs curls, leg press, calf raise, core stability, and chest press twice a week for 10 repetitions.
Exercise intensity was monitored using a visual scale of the individuals rating of perceived exertion, the Borg scale. The first two weeks involved low intensities to prepare for later stages. After the preparatory stage, higher intensity strength phase lasted 6 weeks.
Results demonstrated significant improvements among resistance trained subjects. Specifically in strength and physical function capacities according to short physical performance batter tests (SPPB). SPPB tests average values for basic physical functions like balance, chair rising ability, gait speed, and a total score of the three.
Similar studies by Holsgaard-Larsen et al. observed physical improvements in explosive leg power leading to an increased ability to ascend stairs among elderly women. Both strength programs used similar formats, training two days per week.
The benefits of resistance training and older adults is clear. If you want to increase your physical abilities like pull a car with your teeth at 90 you must train for those specific traits. Future studies should consider comparing different training modalities like bodyweight exercises, aerobics, and rep schemes, even mixing modalities to determine the most effective mix for older adults. The take home message for today is, don’t become old and prone to falling, Lift.
Gennuso, K., Zalewski, K., Cashin, S., & Strath, S. (2013). Resistance training congruent with minimal guidelines improves function in older adults: A pilot study. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 10, 769-776.
Holsgaard-Larsen, A., Caserottie, P., Puggaard, L., & Aagaard, P. (2011). Stair-ascent performance in eiderly women: Effect of explosive strength training. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 19, 117-136.