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Older women benefit just as much from resistance training as older men, study finds

Experts say that resistance training is a great way for older consumers to stay active

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A great deal of research points to the benefits associated with staying active into older age, as exercise has been linked with benefits for both physical and mental health for older consumers. 

Now, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of New South Wales explored how older men and women fare when they practice resistance training. According to their findings, the benefits of resistance training -- including increasing upper body strength and muscle mass -- aren’t exclusive to men. 

“Historically, people tended to believe that men adapted to a greater degree from resistance training compared to women,” said researcher Dr. Amanda Hagstrom. “The differences we found 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.” 

Staying active in older age

For the study, the researchers compiled data from 30 previous studies about resistance training, which included information on more than 1,400 participants over the age of 50. They evaluated two major factors to see how resistance training affected both men and women: strength and muscle mass. 

Ultimately, the researchers found that no differences existed between older men and women completing resistance training. Instead, both groups experienced several health-related benefits by staying active in this way. 

“We found no differences in changes in relative muscle size or upper body strength in older adults,” said Dr. Hagstrom. “It’s important for trainers to understand that women benefit just as much as men in terms of relative improvement compared to their baseline.” 

Different types of training for each gender

However, the researchers found that because of body composition, older men and women could benefit from different kinds of resistance training workouts. Their work revealed that men and women are likely to see the greatest improvements from specific styles of resistance training. 

“Older men might benefit from higher intensity programs to improve their absolute upper and lower body strength,” Dr. Hagstrom said. “But older women might benefit from higher overall exercise volume -- that is, more weekly repetitions -- to increase their relative and absolute lower body strength.” 

Any kind of exercise that older consumers can get is important, but the researchers hope that these findings inspire both men and women to consider resistance training.

“Strength training is very important and beneficial to our health -- especially for older people,” Dr. Hagstrom said. “It can help prevent and treat many age-related chronic diseases, like diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis.” 

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