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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Strength Training Is Good for Seniors

Study Shows Progressive Resistance Training Improves Daily Activities
By Caroline Wilbert
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 8, 2009 -- Senior citizens, you may want to consider hitting the weight room.

A new review, which compiles data from more than 100 clinical trials, concludes that progressive resistance training can help older people in daily activities, such as climbing stairs and fixing dinner.

The study, published in the Cochrane Library, examined 121 trials with a total of 6,700 older participants. In most of the studies, progressive resistance training, or PRT, was performed two to three times a week at a high intensity.

PRT can be done with free weights, exercise machines, or elastic bands. The key is that the resistance, or level of difficulty, increase as the person gets stronger.

This kind of exercise can be particularly useful for seniors because people generally lose muscle strength as they age.

The review concluded that PRT 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. After PRT, people had less pain from osteoarthritis.

"Older adults seem to benefit from this type of exercise even at the age of 80, and even with some type of health condition," researcher Chiung-ju Liu of the department of occupational therapy at Indiana University in Indianapolis says in a news release. "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."

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