Exercise that builds muscle endurance, or resistance training, can help older adults to preserve their independence and quality of life. It can overcome the loss of muscle mass and strength, build resilience, ease the management of chronic conditions, and reduce physical vulnerability.

“When you poll people on if they want to live to 100 years old, few will respond with a ‘yes’,” says director of scientific affairs at Quest Diagnostics and lead author of the position statement.

“The reason mainly being that many people associate advanced age with physical and cognitive decline, loss of independence and poor quality of life,” study says. “Aging, even in the absence of chronic disease, is associated with a variety of biological changes that can contribute to decreases in skeletal muscle mass, strength and function.” The authors explain that their goal is to support a more holistic approach as well as to promote the benefits of resistance training for older adults. They also hope that by providing evidence-based recommendations, the statement will help to reduce fears and other barriers that prevent older adults from taking up resistance training.

Evidence supports each recommendation

In their discussion of the evidence to support these statements, the authors include numerous studies that have examined intensity, volume, speed of movement, and power of resistance training protocols in older adults.

Part 2 concerns physiological adaptations. It explains, for example, how a properly designed program can counteract aging related changes in skeletal muscle and enhance muscular strength. It also describes the role of nerve and muscle systems and hormone systems.

Part 3 concerns the functional benefits of strength training for older people. It suggests, for example, that older adults who participate in properly designed resistance training programs can improve their resistance to injury and “catastrophic events, such as falls.”

Part 4 outlines how to devise resistance training programs for people with chronic conditions, such as frailty and sarcopenia, or loss of muscle mass.

Again, as for Part 1, the authors outline the evidence to support each of the summary statement recommendations.

“The evidence collected and reported in this Position Statement demonstrates the substantial health benefits of resistance exercise for older adults,” conclude the authors. “There is strong evidence,” they add, “to support the benefits of resistance exercise for countering many age related processes of sarcopenia, muscle weakness, mobility loss, chronic disease, disability, and even premature mortality.”

Current research has demonstrated that resistance training is a powerful care model to combat loss of muscle strength and mass in the aging population.”