A Cochrane Review suggests that progressive resistance strength training not only helps older adults become stronger but also makes their everyday life easier.
Muscle strength decreases naturally as people age. This reduction in muscle strength could affect older adults carrying out daily activities. Progressive resistance strength training is a type of strength training that uses free weights, exercise machines, or elastic bands to strengthen muscles. Key to this type of this exercise is adjusting the resistance, or weight, according to the person's progress. This exercise can be prescribed to help older adults gain the strength necessary to carry out everyday activities such as walking, climbing stairs, bathing or doing housework.
"Older adults seem to benefit from this type of exercise even at the age of 80, and even with some type of health condition. The data support the idea that muscle strength is largely improved after the training, and the impact on older adults' daily activities can be significant. Simply having enough strength to do things such as carrying groceries would make a difference for seniors" says lead researcher Chiung-ju Liu of the Department of Occupational Therapy at the Indiana University at Indianapolis in the US.
The 121 trials reviewed in the study involved 6,700 people over the age of 60, who trained two to three times a week. Training produced a large improvement in muscle strength, a moderate to large improvement in doing simple activities such as getting up from a chair or climbing stairs and a small but statistically significant improvement in doing complex daily activities, such as bathing or preparing a meal.
Severe adverse events were rare and most reported events were muscle soreness and pain.
"We recommend older adults work with a health professional or an exercise professional to do progressive resistance strength training" says Liu. Because the long-term effect was not assessed in most trials, the Cochrane Researchers did not know how long the effects could last.