By Rita La Rosa Loud, B.S.

If, as a rule, you are inactive, you may have experienced a 3% to 8% deficit of muscle mass every decade after age 30, and 5% to 10% every decade after age 50. This muscle loss is accompanied by a reduction in resting metabolic rate (calories burned at rest) with a resulting increase in fat weight. Research reveals that men and women of all ages (including older adults until the 10th decade), can increase lean mass and resting metabolic rate as well as reduce fat weight in just 10 weeks of resistance training two to three days per week. Presented are studies supporting the health effects of resistance exercise. (Resistance Training is Medicine: Westcott, PhD. ACSM 2012).
Muscle: 10-week large-scale resistance training study with 1,600 subjects (ages 21 to 80): 12 exercises, 2-3 nonconsecutive days per week, showed a 3.1-lb. muscle gain with all age groups exhibiting similar muscle development.
Metabolism: Novice participants performing a low-volume resistance workout: 1 set of 10 exercises, increased resting energy expenditure 5% lasting 3 days post exercise, burning an extra 100 calories at rest.
Body fat: Regarding overall body fat, an increase of 3.1 lbs. of lean weight is accompanied by a loss of 3.9 lbs. of fat weight, with significant reductions in intra-abdominal fat in older women and men.
Physical performance: Strength training reverses incapacitating effects of inactive aging, improving movement control, functional abilities, physical performance; walking speed; nursing home residents performed a set of six resistance machines, twice weekly, for 14 weeks; increased strength 60%, added 3.7 lbs. of lean weight, and enhanced functional independence 14%.
Health conditions: Resistance training counteracts age-related decline in insulin sensitivity preventing onset of Type 2 Diabetes, metabolic disorders and lowers HbA1c: 20 minutes of combined strength/endurance training two or three days per week reduces resting blood pressure. Evidence suggests resistance training improves cardiovascular health, reduces risk of metabolic syndrome, and produces positive effects in post-coronary patients.
Cholesterol: According to the American College of Sports Medicine Stand on Exercise and Physical Activity for Older Adults, resistance training may increase HDL 8%-21%, decrease LDL 13%-23%, and reduce triglycerides 11%-18%. A study with 70- to 87-year-old women significantly improved triglycerides and cholesterol levels, decreasing risk of cardiovascular disease.
Bone density: Adults who do not perform resistance training lose 1%-3% bone every year (muscle loss is linked with bone loss). Studies show that strength training increases bone density after four to 24 months of resistance training with older adults.
Mental health: Resistance training is effective for reducing depression in older adults. A classic study found 80% of depressed elders were no longer clinically depressed after strength training three times per week for 10 weeks. Comprehensive Research Review lists mental health benefits: less fatigue, anxiety, and depression; and reduced osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and low back pain; improvements in cognitive abilities/self-esteem in older adults.
Age factors: Resistance training was found to reverse aging factors in skeletal muscle: after 6 months of training, seniors (average age 68) exhibited gene expression reversal resulting in muscle mitochondrial characteristics like 24-year-old adults.

Experience the health benefits of resistance training at Quincy College’s Wayne Westcott, Ph.D. Center for Health and Fitness, Presidents Place, 1250 Hancock St.

About the Author: Rita La Rosa Loud holds a B.S. in Exercise Physiology with additional education in Sports Medicine and Athletic Training. She is NASM Certified and has been actively involved in the fitness industry for more than 35 years. She is also an author and writes
fitness-related articles for various publications. Currently, she is a fitness researcher and directs the Wayne Westcott, Ph.D. Center for Health and Fitness at Quincy College. She can be reached at 617-405-5978.