Authors of a new meta-analysis (a statistical tool that pools together all of the studies on a particular topic) published in Sports Medicine provide our most up-to-date understanding of the impact of strength training on the elderly.
The authors provide three evidence-based insights:
1. Elderly (defined as over 75) men and women can significantly increase both muscle strength and size. “We found that resistance training produced substantial increases in muscle strength in the very elderly… the finding that the very elderly can increase their muscle size is highly relevant, given that sarcopenia may increase the risk of falls and fractures, increase frailty, decrease functional independence and quality of life as well as increase the risk of chronic disease and all‐cause mortality.”
2. These benefits were achieved with a low volume (meaning, not very many sets or total exercises) and low frequency (very few workouts per week), “suggesting that a relatively low time commitment is needed to reap these benefits.”
3. Perhaps most important, minimal adverse events were reported. This is important as a recent published review reported that “Fear of a heart attack, stroke, or even death, is one of the most common barriers to participation in resistance exercise for older adults.” The authors concluded that, “There were no reported serious events directly related to exercise interventions. These results suggest that resistance training can be safe, even for the very elderly.”
Take home message: At 75 years of age we can and should get strong, add muscle, and do it all without risk of adverse effects.