Review Article

Sports Medicine

, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 249-268

First online:

Strength Training in the Elderly

Effects on Risk Factors for Age-Related Diseases
  • Ben F. HurleyAffiliated withDepartment of Kinesiology, College of Health & Human Performance, University of Maryland Email author 
  • , Stephen M. RothAffiliated withDepartment of Kinesiology, College of Health & Human Performance, University of Maryland

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Strength training (ST) is considered a promising intervention for reversing the loss of muscle function and the deterioration of muscle structure that is associated with advanced age. This reversal is thought to result in improvements in functional abilities and health status in the elderly by increasing muscle mass, strength and power and by increasing bone mineral density (BMD). In the past couple of decades, many studies have examined the effects of ST on risk factors for age-related diseases or disabilities. Collectively, these studies indicate that ST in the elderly: (i) is an effective intervention against sarcopenia because it produces substantial increases in the strength, mass, power and quality of skeletal muscle; (ii) can increase endurance performance; (iii) normalises blood pressure in those with high normal values; (iv) reduces insulin resistance; (v) decreases both total and intra-abdominal fat; (vi) increases resting metabolic rate in older men; (vii) prevents the loss of BMD with age; (viii) reduces risk factors for falls; and (ix) may reduce pain and improve function in those with osteoarthritis in the knee region. However, contrary to popular belief, ST does not increase maximal oxygen uptake beyond normal variations, improve lipoprotein or lipid profiles, or improve flexibility in the elderly.