Research shows that doing resistance training helps older adults maintain their strength four years later

Research shows that doing resistance training helps older adults maintain their strength four years later


Sign up for CNN’s Fitness, But Better newsletter series. Our seven-part guide will help you build a healthy routine, backed by experts.

Retirement should be filled with time with loved ones, relaxation and – according to new research – hard work.

As people age, the function of their skeletal muscles declines, according to the study published Tuesday in the journal BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine.

“If you do resistance training at this age, the benefits on some parameters can last for several years,” said the lead author of the study Mads Bloch-Ibenfeldt, a doctoral student at the Institute of Sports Medicine at Bispebjerg Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark.

To investigate whether resistance exercise programs could be beneficial in the long term, researchers conducted a randomized control trial involving 369 recently retired and healthy adults between the ages of 64 and 75.

The participants were assigned one of three exercise programs for a year. They lifted weights three times a week, exercised at moderate intensity three times a week using their body weight and resistance bands, or did not change their usual exercise routines, the study said.

Researchers measured their bone and muscle strength and body fat levels at the start of the trial at the end of the one-year program and then two and four years later, the study said. It was up to the individuals whether they continued their strength training program or returned to their normal training levels.

Resistance training with heavy loads provided the greatest long-term benefit in leg strength, the study found. Even four years after training, their leg strength was unchanged, while the moderate-intensity group did see a decline – although this was not significant, the study found.

“Exercise is crucial throughout life. This study shows that even those who engage in activities later in life around retirement can lead to clear health benefits,” says Dr. John Batsis, a geriatrician and associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the School. of Medicine (Geriatric Medicine) and at the Gillings School of Global Public Health (Nutrition). He was not involved in the investigation.

Edwin Tan/E+/Getty Images

Weighted exercise showed the greatest impact in recently retired healthy people, a new study found.

The umbrella of exercise includes aerobic, resistance, flexibility and balance activities, Batsis said.

“Each of these has important implications for overall health (including cognition) and physical functioning, if done regularly or not,” Batsis said in an email.

You can think of resistance training as “exercises that improve strength by making muscles work against a force,” says CNN fitness contributor Dana Santas, a mind-body coach for professional athletes.

That force can include weights, resistance bands or your own body weight, such as with push-ups or squats, she added.

“For older adults, resistance training is crucial for maintaining muscle mass, bone density and mobility,” she says.

According to the recent study, adding heavier weight appears to be important, Bloch-Ibenfeldt said said.

One limitation of the exercise suggested in the recent study is that the weighted exercises were done in a gym, something not everyone has the time, money or transportation for, Batsis said.

Although you should consult a certified trainer or physical therapist to ensure you’re exercising safely, there are things you can do from home, Santas said.

For older adults, it’s important to get stronger in ways that are important for functional movements in everyday life, she added.

Santas recommends box squats, where you sit lightly on a chair and stand back up. If you don’t need to hold the armrests of the chair for support, add some dumbbells, Santas said.

The extra weight provides “additional resistance while improving grip strength, which is essential for functional independence and serves as (a) marker of heart health,” she added.

You can also increase strength in functional movements, protect your knee joints and prevent injuries by placing a resistance band around both legs and doing side steps, side lunges or reverse lunges, she said.

Try to do two or three sets of eight to 12 of each activity at least a few times a week, Santas said.

Maintaining regular exercise and other health factors are important for independence later in life, Batsis said.

“The basics of lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, are an important key to healthy aging,” he added.