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Effects of Resistance Training on Older Adults


Using an integrative approach, this review highlights the benefits of resistance training toward improvements in functional status, health and quality of life among older adults. Sarcopenia (i.e. muscle atrophy) and loss of strength are known to occur with age. While its aetiology is poorly understood, the multifactorial sequelae of sarcopenia are well documented and present a major public health concern to our aging population, as both the quality of life and the likelihood of age-associated declines in health status are influenced. These age-related declines in health include decreased energy expenditure at rest and during exercise, and increased body fat and its accompanying increased dyslipidaemia and reduced insulin sensitivity. Quality of life is affected by reduced strength and endurance and increased difficulty in being physically active. Strength and muscle mass are increased following resistance training in older adults through a poorly understood series of events that appears to involve the recruitment of satellite cells to support hypertrophy of mature myofibres. Muscle quality (strength relative to muscle mass) also increases with resistance training in older adults possibly for a number of reasons, including increased ability to neurally activate motor units and increased high-energy phosphate availability. Resistance training in older adults also increases power, reduces the difficulty of performing daily tasks, enhances energy expenditure and body composition, and promotes participation in spontaneous physical activity. Impairment in strength development may result when aerobic training is added to resistance training but can be avoided with training limited to 3 days/week.

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The UAB studies were supported by NIH (R01DK 49779, R01 DK51684, and R01 AG17896), Ralph L. Smith Foundation, the General Clinical Research Center (M01-RR00032), the Clinical Nutrition Research Unit (P30-DK56336), the University-Wide Clinical Nutrition Research Center and the UAB Center for Aging, Stouffer’s Lean Cuisine entrees were provided by the Nestle Food Co, Solon, OH. The authors have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this review.

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Hunter, G.R., McCarthy, J.P. & Bamman, M.M. Effects of Resistance Training on Older Adults. Sports Med 34, 329–348 (2004).

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  • Resistance Training
  • Satellite Cell
  • Resistance Exercise
  • Strength Training
  • Endurance Training