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Why is strength training in the aging adult so important?

Updated: Dec 8, 2019

Everyone ages, however, not everyone ages the same. Declining physical abilities and loss of independence is the reality for many aging adults. We have heard of the negative effects aging can have on things such as bone density, muscle strength, mental health, and quality of life, but what can we do about it?

The benefits of strength training have been well documented. Improved strength has positive effects on bone density to combat osteoporosis, and helps decrease the effects of osteoarthritis, but what about our general quality of life? Can strength training enhance mood and mental health, improve quality of sleep, raise energy levels, improve balance and, hence, decrease the risk of falling?

A recent literature review found the following:

Peter D Hart, Diana J Buck. The effect of resistance training on health-related quality of life in older adults: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Health Promotion Perspectives 2019; 9(1): 1-12

This review and meta-analysis looked at randomized controlled trials involving adults 50+ between 2010 and 2017 who had resistance training as the primary intervention. They found 16 studies that met their inclusion criteria and did further analysis of those studies. Using the SF-36/12, eight dimensions (physical function, body pain, physical role function, general health, mental health, emotional role function, social function and vitality) and two summary scores (physical and mental) were compared across all studies.

Resistance training was found to have the largest effect on mental health and body pain measures. Once one of the studies was removed (so 15 studies now), resistance training was found to have a significant improvement on all health-related quality of life measures.

The take-away message is that resistance training of any type, at least twice a week, has been shown to have a significant improvement on quality of life in adults over 50 years of age.

Some of the effects of strength training:

· Help build and maintain bone density

· Builds muscle and helps to preserve strength

· Helps to maintain independence

· Improves energy

· Improves mental health

· Improves body pain scores

· Improves coordination

· Decreased risk of falling

· Improves general health

· Improves emotional role function

· Improves social function

· Improves vitality

The old saying “Use it or lose it” still holds true. Exercise is safe and effective for women and men of all ages.

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