May 14, 2002 Exercising just one day a week can give older adults the strength to maintain their independence and to avoid injuries, according to a study by a group of scientists at Ball State University, Muncie, IN.
Researchers Scott Trappe, David Williamson, and Michael Godard of the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State found that “skeletal muscle strength gains achieved during a 12-week progressive resistance training program would be maintained by resistance training once per week.” The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging and appears in the April 2002 issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences.
Preserving muscle strength and size, noted the Ball State researchers, “has become a critical issue for older adults attempting to maintain independent living and quality of life.” Decline in muscle strength and size, often referred to as sarcopenia, is commonly associated with aging, and sarcopenia-related problems such as falls can lead to injury and rising health care costs.
In the Ball State study, the once-a-week program was implemented for six months following a three-month progressive resistance training program. Ten men (older than 70 years) were resistance trained three days per week and then divided into two groups of five. Six months later, the five who had returned to a free-living lifestyle with no regular physical activity after their training had a significant decline in thigh muscle strength and size. The five who did resistance training once a week were able to maintain the strength that they had acquired in the progressive resistance training.
According to Dr. Trappe and his colleagues, their study shows that a low volume, high-intensity resistance training program can provide older adults with the necessary strength to lead an independent and injury-free life. The study has important social implications for time management and health care costs for the elderly population and the community.
The Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences (http://biomed.gerontologyjournals.org) is a refereed publication of The Gerontological Society of America, the national organization of professionals in the field of aging.
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