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The long-term benefits of heavy resistance training for older adults


A recent study highlights the significant long-term benefits of heavy resistance training in preserving leg muscle function among older adults. This form of exercise helps maintain muscle strength and contributes to overall well-being and independence in later years.

Understanding the study’s findings

The research, published in BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, reveals that older adults who engaged in heavy resistance training were able to maintain their isometric leg strength for up to four years post-training. This contrasts with those who undertook moderate-intensity training or no exercise, who saw a decline in muscle strength over the same period.

The study was part of the LIve Active Successful Ageing (LISA) trial, which included 451 participants divided into three groups. The findings suggest that heavy resistance training could offer a more effective long-term strategy for muscle function preservation compared to other forms of exercise.

Expert insights on resistance training

Experts recommend that older adults interested in starting heavy resistance training should do so under proper guidance. Building up to higher resistance levels gradually is crucial to avoid injuries and ensure the effectiveness of the workouts.

According to Karly Mendez, a human performance specialist, “In well-functioning older adults at retirement age, one year of heavy resistance training may induce long-lasting beneficial effects by preserving muscle function.”

Practical advice for starting strength training

For those new to strength training, it is advisable to begin with lighter weights and simple bodyweight exercises. Ensuring proper form and gradually increasing the intensity of workouts can help maximize benefits and minimize the risk of injury.

Working with professionals such as personal trainers or physical therapists can provide tailored advice and safe practice routines, noting any existing health conditions.

Limitations and considerations

While the study presents promising results, it is important to note that it was conducted in Denmark, which may limit the generalizability of the findings to other populations. Additionally, the study’s design does not establish causality, and some data was from participant reporting, which could introduce bias.

Despite these limitations, the research underscores the potential of heavy resistance training as a key component of an older adult’s fitness regimen, capable of significantly enhancing muscle strength and overall health.