Older adults can experience sharp declines in balance, strength, and general well-being. Between the ages of 30 and 70, adults experience a decrease in maximal strength and power in the range of 30 to 50 percent. What’s more, once a person hits their 60s, they are likely to experience a more rapid trajectory of decline in their total locomotor functioning. With this in mind, scholars in aging have taken an interest in elucidating what, if anything, older adults can do to slow this type of physical decline to increase their quality of life and overall longevity.
In the past, studies examined the effects of strength training programs on falls reduction. However, these training periods typically lasted no longer than six months. A recent study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports provides support for the benefits that older adults may reap from engaging in a systematic and extended strength training program for overall strength, mobility, balance, and posture. The authors hypothesized and found that a 21-week supervised strength training program, followed by another 21-week program that was slightly less rigorous, was more impactful than merely engaging in the first 21-week program and then stopping strength training activities. Participants showed large improvements in maximal strength, walking time, and balance.
In short, strength training is healthy and useful for older adults. The longer it lasts, the greater the benefits it imparts.
Source: Holviala J, Hakkinen A, Sallinen J, et al. Effects of prolonged and maintenance strength training on force production, walking, and balance in aging women and men. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports (2014); 24: 224–233.