by Robert Goldman MD, PhD Iron Man Magazine
While people typically lose 30 percent of their muscle strength between the ages of 50 and 70, it is critically important to maintain muscle strength as we age, to preserve mobility and independent living. Frank Mayer, from the University of Potsdam in Germany, and colleagues reviewed recently published studies about strength training in elderly persons and which intensities of exercise are useful and possible in persons older than 60 years.
The team found that regular resistance training increased muscle strength and reduced muscular atrophy, and that tendons and bones adapt too. Those successes, in turn, had a preventive effect in terms of avoiding falls and injuries. Greater intensities of training yielded greater effects than moderate and low intensities. To increase muscle, you need an intensity of 60 to 85 percent of the one-repetition-maximum. In order to increase rapidly available muscle force, you need higher intensities—greater than 85 percent.
The optimum amount of exercise for healthy elderly persons is three to four training units per week. “Progressive strength training in the elderly is efficient, even with higher intensities, to reduce sarcopenia and to retain motor function,” the researchers strongly conclude.
Mayer, F., et al. (2011). The intensity and effects of strength training in the elderly.” Dtsch Arztebl Int. 108(21): 359-64.
—Dr. Bob Goldman