Can resistance training help fight against frail old age?

Frailty is one of the aspects of ageing that can creep up on us without us noticing. What’s more, we may even help the process by thinking it is ‘just a part of old age’. Yet such an attitude can lead to unnecessary physical decline and future problems such as the loss of independence, reduced quality of life, never mind the likelihood of developing depression and dementia, and even death.

Maintaining muscle is one of the best ways to help us maintain the ability to function well, with stronger older adults better able to prevent future disability. Indeed, a team of researchers examined information from a study called SHARE to prove the point. It involved a survey of people aged 50 and older across most European Union countries and Israel, with the examining the survey participants’ answers to ten questions about their ability to:

Walk 100 meters (328 feet), Sit for approximately 2 hours, Get up from a chair after sitting for long periods, Climb several flights of stairs without resting, Climb one flight of stairs without resting, stooping, kneeling, or crouching, Reach or extend their arms above shoulder level, Pull or push large objects such as a living room chair, Lift or carry weights over 10 pounds, Pick up a small coin from a table

Answers to all ten questions were collected five different times, with two-year intervals between each survey. Concentrating on the impact of grip strength and cognition – the ability to remember, think, and make decisions – the researchers found that maintaining grip strength and protecting mental ability might prevent or delay disability.

As older adults who perform physical and mental training may be able to avoid or delay disability it would seem resistance training is well named: helping us resist the ravages of time and old age.

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