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Once-Weekly Strength Training for Older Adults

Study shows multiple health benefits from weekly whole-body training.

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Great news for healthy older adults who may not be able to weight-train more than once a week. For 65- to 75-year-old men and women, supervised whole-body resistance training once weekly for 6 months led to significantly less inflammation, lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and better overall well-being.

Individuals who trained three times per week received the same benefits and had significantly less body fat and more muscle mass. Participants saw increases in HDL cholesterol whether they trained once, twice or three times weekly, but significant reductions in LDL occurred only in those who trained three times per week. These findings are published in Frontiers in Physiology (2019; doi:10.3389/fphys.2019.00032.)

University of Jyväskylä researchers in Finland led the study to evaluate the effects of resistance training frequency on older adults’ body composition, inflammation markers, lipid levels and glycemic profile. Researchers randomly divided 106 subjects into four groups: resistance training once, twice or three times weekly, and a control group. Training sessions consisted of 2–5 sets of seven to nine total-body exercises, with 4–12 repetitions per set, for 6 months.


See also: Sample Class: Functional Strength for Older Adults

“We found that individuals who were close to having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood glucose, or high levels of inflammation improved the most,” said principal investigator Simon Walker, PhD, faculty of Sports and Health Sciences at University of Jyväskylä. “Training two or three times per week didn’t provide greater benefit in these individuals.” He noted that for maximum strength gains, muscle growth and fat loss, training more times per week was better. “But for other measures that are important for older people, such as the ability to perform activities of daily living, once per week seemed sufficient. Muscle strength that is needed for carrying shopping bags, walking up and down stairs and sitting down on a toilet can be improved with [once-weekly] strength training.”

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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