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Optimal Exercise Plan for Women?

There are many different
exercise protocols out there. When it comes to mature women, is there a best plan? New research suggests
there is.

Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham wanted to understand the impact of three different training frequencies on older women. They also aimed to learn whether different frequencies would affect total energy expenditure (TEE) and activity-related energy expenditure (AEE). They recruited 72 women, aged 60–74, and organized them into three categories: 1 day per week of cardiovascular training and 1 day per week of strength training (1+1); 2 days per week of cardio and 2 of strength (2+2); and 3 days per week of each (3+3). The cardiovascular training consisted of 40 minutes of exercise at 80% of maximum heart rate, while the strength component comprised 2 sets of 10 repetitions for 10 exercises at 80% of 1-repetition maximum.

Data measures included body composition; self-reported feelings of fatigue, depression and vigor; strength; maximal oxygen uptake; and resting and total energy expenditure. The intervention lasted 16 weeks.

By study end, all women had increased their fat-free mass, strength and cardiovascular fitness, and all had reduced their fat mass. There were no changes in fatigue or depression. However, there were disparities in total and activity-related energy expenditures among the groups.

“TEE and AEE increased with the 2+2 group but not with the other two groups,” the authors noted. “Non­-
exercise training AEE (nonexercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT) increased significantly in the 2+2 group (+200 kilocalories/day), group 1+1 showed a trend for an increase (+68 kcal/day) and group 3+3 decreased significantly (-150 kcal/day).

“Results indicate that 3+3 training may inhibit NEAT by being too time-consuming and does not induce superior training adaptations to 1+1 and 2+2 training.”

The study appeared in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (2013; Jan. 30 [epub ahead of print]).

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