Strength training should be recommended to older adults in a similar way to medications

Numerous studies highlight the various benefits of strength training
Resistance training is a term used to describe any type of exercise that causes muscles to contract from some type of resistance force, like weights, a resistance band or body weight. The main propose of resistance training is to increase strength, tone, mass and/or endurance, but it can also bring about several other benefits. Numerous studies have shown that resistance training reduces low back pain and blood pressure, increases bone mineral density and metabolic rate, and improves muscle quality and insulin sensitivity in type-2 diabetics. In addition, research has shown that increased muscle strength and muscle mass can actually help predict longevity and mortality, meaning that stronger individuals are likely to live longer lives with less risk for disease. Based on all of these health benefits, regular resistance training is recommended for all individuals, but it can play a particularly important role for older adults due to the main health risks associated with aging. To explore the importance of this concept, a “mini-review” was conducted.

Complicated and intense programs may not be necessary
Some professional organizations claim that complicated, intense resistance programs are necessary in order to achieve these reported benefits. Unfortunately, these recommendations may actually deter people from participating in resistance training programs, and need not be as long or intense as suggested. For example, many of the positive responses from resistance training stated above came from individuals performing them for low (20-35 minutes) or moderate (40-60 minutes) volumes three times per week. These types of studies support a low-dose volume with a single set of resistance training, which is much more manageable for older adults. Additional studies have also found that supervision can improve adherence to resistance training programs, since it can increase motivation and guide older adults through these exercises.

Physical therapists frequently provide these types of programs to patients
Bringing it all together, the researchers of this mini-review believe that resistance training could and should follow a simplistic approach in the elderly population. Doing so appears to be sufficient to bring about health benefits and will likely increase the chances of older adults following these programs. Specifically, they recommend an uncomplicated resistance training program performed in a single set at a low-to-moderate dosage, meaning less than 60 minutes daily, two days per week. Following this program may be all that is needed to achieve the several health benefits stated in this review. The researchers even go so far as to say that medical professionals should recommend this type of training to older adults in the same way as a drug due to the many improvements it can bring about. Physical therapists in particular are ideally suited to provide older patients with a training program that fits these criteria, as this forms a central component of their treatment and exercise recommendations. Older individuals should therefore seek out the services of a local physical therapist that can offer this type of beneficial intervention.

-As reported in the September ’17 issue of Experimental Gerontology