Once-Weekly Strength Training for Older Adults

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

By Shirley Archer, JD, MA
Jun 14, 2019

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, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

5 Comments

  1. Avatar Trent Mitchell on July 2, 2020 at 12:47 pm

    Why not produce a study to show training once weekly for 20 min. produces similar benefit? Heck, do another one to show benefit with 10 min/once/weekly. Ok, let’s take it a step farther and do another study that says 2 min/once/weekly produces similar benefit? Wow, now you really have some good news for us older folks! Seriously, this type of “scientific nonsense” only serves to make a lazier older population. Keep it to yourself.

    • Avatar Tina Heikkinen on July 12, 2020 at 12:47 pm

      Good information. I think if we show people that if we see a Benefit from just one day a week, it will get them started and hopefully the will start feeling better and will move on to 2-3 days a week. It doesn’t take much to show how exercise can make a difference in many different ways.

    • Elizabeth Likes M.A. Elizabeth Likes M.A. on July 12, 2020 at 5:47 pm

      Trent, did you look at the volume of training they did?

      Why this is an excellent article and totally NOT nonsense:
      *it demonstrates how amazingly adaptable the human body is at any age
      *I have seen this to be true in my 30+ years of private training older adults
      *it may inspire otherwise sedentary individuals to strengthen their body, even if only once per week with real results (any movement is better than none!)
      *once an older adult starts to feel better with one workout per week, they may be inspired to do more
      *one of the main goals is to help folks maintain ability for everyday tasks and activities and the right training once per week will provide that
      Wishing you well being!

  2. Avatar Monica B on July 2, 2020 at 4:20 pm

    I’m a Cancer Survivor 2x, cant do strenuous exercise, but need to do exercises to help strengthen my leg muscles.

    • Elizabeth Likes Elizabeth Likes on July 12, 2020 at 5:50 pm

      Monica, you don’t need to do strenuous exercise to improve your well-being and life quality. I encourage you to strengthen and move in ways that feel good to your body. There are tons of free resources on the web. YouTube has many videos by people who know their stuff!

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