Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Elderly Women Can Increase Strength But Still Risk Falls

Date:
November 5, 2008
Source:
University of New Hampshire
Summary:
Elderly women can increase muscle strength as much as young women can, a new study from the University of New Hampshire finds, indicating that decline in muscle function is less a natural part of the aging process than due to a decline in physical activity. Yet while the two groups increased similar percentages of strength, the older group was far less effective in increasing power, which is more closely related to preventing falls.

Research subject Ellen Prouty, 80, participates in a strength-building study conducted by Dain LaRoche, assistant professor of exercise science at UNH.
Credit: Courtesy Dain LaRoche, UNH

Elderly women can increase muscle strength as much as young women can, a new study from the University of New Hampshire finds, indicating that decline in muscle function is less a natural part of the aging process than due to a decline in physical activity.

Related Articles


The research compared strength gains of inactive elderly women and inactive young women after both groups participated in an eight-week training regime. Yet while the two groups increased similar percentages of strength, the older group was far less effective in increasing power, which is more closely related to preventing falls.

"Power is more important than strength for recovery from loss of balance or walking ability," says Dain LaRoche, assistant professor of exercise science at UNH and the lead author of the study. Preventing falls, which occur in 40 percent of people over 65 and are the top reason for injury-related emergency room visits, is the driving force behind LaRoche's research agenda.

LaRoche compared the initial strength of 25 young (18 - 33) and 24 old (65 - 84) inactive women then had both groups participate in resistance training on a machine that targeted knee extensor muscles, which are critical for walking, stair-climbing, or rising from a chair. "They're what let you live on your own," he says.

After eight weeks of training, the older group not only increased their strength by the same percentage as the younger group, they achieved gained strength similar to a control group of young inactive women. But the older group's ability to increase power - force over time - was significantly less than the younger group's; the elderly women saw only a ten percent increase in power versus the younger women's 50 percent increase.

"It's somewhat troublesome that these older individuals had a reduced capacity to increase performance that's so closely associated with falls," says LaRoche. It seems that the key to muscle power in the elderly is to maintain it over the lifespan rather than try to develop it later in life, he says.

Acknowledging that the type or frequency (six sets, three times per week) of his training protocol may have affected the older group's ability to make gains in power, LaRoche is continuing to research older women's capacity to develop muscle power. As baby boomers age, doubling the over-65 population by 2030, research that supports fall prevention and independent living is a growth area. "I tell my students, 'there's room for you in this field,'" says LaRoche.

Of those 40 percent of elderly people who will fall, research has shown that 20 to 30 percent suffer injuries that reduce mobility, independence and longevity. Health care cost of a fall injury totals nearly $20,000, and following a hip fracture, life expectancy is just two years.

LaRoche's own interest in fall prevention in the elderly arose after helping his parents and sister care for his completely sedentary grandmother, helping her stay in her own home until she died at age 93. She broke both hips, lost six inches of height, and had osteoporosis so severe that a caregiver accidently crushed several of her ribs just helping her out of a chair.

"There's a gap between life expectancy and quality of life in older age," LaRoche says. "We can improve that a lot with physical activity."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of New Hampshire. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Laroche et al. Elderly Women Have Blunted Response to Resistance Training Despite Reduced Antagonist Coactivation. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2008; 40 (9): 1660 DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181761561

Cite This Page:

University of New Hampshire. "Elderly Women Can Increase Strength But Still Risk Falls." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 November 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081023113111.htm>.
University of New Hampshire. (2008, November 5). Elderly Women Can Increase Strength But Still Risk Falls. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081023113111.htm
University of New Hampshire. "Elderly Women Can Increase Strength But Still Risk Falls." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081023113111.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

Buzz60 (Oct. 24, 2014) IKEA is out with a new convertible desk that can convert from a sitting desk to a standing one with just the push of a button. Jen Markham explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

AFP (Oct. 24, 2014) A factory in China is busy making Ebola protective suits for healthcare workers and others fighting the spread of the virus. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
WHO: Millions of Ebola Vaccine Doses by 2015

WHO: Millions of Ebola Vaccine Doses by 2015

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) The World Health Organization said on Friday that millions of doses of two experimental Ebola vaccines could be ready for use in 2015 and five more experimental vaccines would start being tested in March. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor in NYC Quarantined With Ebola

Doctor in NYC Quarantined With Ebola

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) An emergency room doctor who recently returned to the city after treating Ebola patients in West Africa has tested positive for the virus. He's quarantined in a hospital. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins