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Strength training counteracts muscular atrophy in old age

BY: Heather Culbertson
Jun 24, 2011 15:42
Progressive strength training in the elderly is efficient, even with higher intensities, to reduce sarcopenia, and to retain motor function.

New research published in Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, the German Medical Association’s official international bilingual science journal, concludes that progressive strength training counteracts muscular atrophy in old age.


People can typically lose up to 30% of their muscle strength between the ages of 50 and 70 years and maintaining muscle strength in old age is enormously important in order to maintain mobility and lead an independent life.


The authors of the report from the University of Potsdam investigated the extent of the effects that can be achieved by strength training in elderly persons and what levels of exercise are useful and possible in persons older than 60 years.They found that regular strength training not only increased muscle strength and reduced muscular atrophy, but that tendons and bones adapted as well. This in turn had a preventive effect in terms of avoiding falls and injuries, with greater intensities of training yielding greater effects than moderate and low intensities.


In order to increase muscle mass, an intensity of 60-85% of the one-repetition-maximum is required. In order to increase rapidly available muscle force, higher intensities (>85%) are required. The optimum amount of exercise for healthy elderly persons is 3 to 4 training units per week.


As people are increasingly living longer and retirement ages rise, the importance of maintaining the ability to work and to make a living will increase, as will the need for independence in everyday life and leisure activities.


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