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20 Jan 2021

Research finds resistance training benefits older women as much as older men
BY Tom Walker

The findings could have significant implications for the way fitness instructors and personal trainers work with female clients over the age of 50

The findings could have significant implications for the way fitness instructors and personal trainers work with female clients over the age of 50
photo: Shutterstock.com/Leszek Glasner

Resistance training is just as beneficial for men and women over the age of 50, a new study has found.

Research by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia – published in Sports Medicine – shows that while men are likely to gain more absolute muscle size, the gains relative to body size are on par to women’s.

For the study, researchers compared muscle mass and strength gains in 651 older men and 759 older women across 30 different resistance training studies involving more than 1,400 participants.

The participants were aged between 50 and 90, with most having no prior resistance training experience.

“Historically, people tended to believe that men adapted to a greater degree from resistance training when compared to women,” Hagstrom said.

"However, we found no sex differences in changes in relative muscle size or upper body strength in older adults.

“The differences we did find, primarily relate to how we look at the data – that is, absolutely or relatively.

"‘Absolute’ looks at the overall gains, while ‘relative’ is a percentage based on their body size.”

Hagstrom adds that the findings could have significant implications for the way fitness instructors and personal trainers work with female clients over the age of 50.

“It’s important for trainers to understand that women benefit just as much as men in terms of relative improvement compared to their baseline," Hagstrom said.

"However, older men tended to build bigger muscles when looking at absolute gains and were also more likely to see greater absolute improvements to upper and lower body strength.

"But when it came to relative lower body strength, older women saw the biggest increases.

“Our study sheds light on the possibility that we should be programming differently for older men and women to maximise their training benefits."

The team also conducted a sub-analysis of the literature to see what resistance training techniques gave the best results for each sex.

“Older men might benefit from higher intensity programs to improve their absolute upper and lower body strength,” says Dr Hagstrom.

“But older women might benefit from higher overall exercise volumes – that is, more weekly repetitions – to increase their relative and absolute lower body strength.”

• To read the full report, click here.



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