Strength Training: A Game Changer for Senior Citizens
A new study has shed light on the benefits of strength training for older adults, showing that even individuals in their 80s and 90s can significantly improve muscle mass and strength through a regular weight lifting program. This dispels the common misconception that older individuals are unable to build muscle mass.
The study, led by Luc van Loon, a professor of human biology at Maastricht University, recruited 29 healthy elderly men and women. They were divided into two groups, with one group consisting of younger seniors aged 65 to 75 and the other group aged over 85. None of the participants had ever weight trained before, and they were all in good health.
Under the supervision of researchers, the volunteers engaged in weight-lifting exercises three times a week for 12 weeks. Surprisingly, the older group showed greater improvements in muscle mass and strength compared to the younger group. On average, the older participants added 11% to muscle mass and 46% to strength, while the younger group gained 10% in muscle mass and 38% in strength.
Gianfranco Beltrami, a sports doctor and national vice-president of the Italian Sports Medical Federation, emphasized the importance of incorporating strength exercises into workout routines, particularly for older individuals. He highlighted the positive impact on physical well-being, including an increase in muscle strength, a lower risk of falls, and an improvement in cardio-respiratory fitness.
Despite the promising results, researchers noted that the study has limitations, as it only lasted for three months and the training was always supervised. They also acknowledged that some older adults may have serious illnesses or disabilities that could make weight training unrealistic for them.
In light of this, Beltrami advised caution and gradual progression for elderly individuals who have been sedentary for many years, as the risk of injury is high. While it’s never too late to start, it’s important for older adults to approach strength training with care and with the guidance of a professional.
This study serves as a reminder that age should not be a barrier to engaging in strength training and reaping its benefits. With the right approach, older adults can improve their muscle mass, strength, and overall well-being, proving that it’s never too late to start building a stronger, healthier body.