DURHAM, N.H. Elderly women can increase muscle strength as much as young women can, a new study from the University of New Hampshire finds, indicating that decline in muscle function is less a natural part of the aging process than due to a decline in physical activity.
The research, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, compared strength gains of inactive elderly women and inactive young women after both groups participated in an eight-week training regime. Yet while the two groups increased similar percentages of strength, the older group was far less effective in increasing power, which is more closely related to preventing falls.
"Power is more important than strength for recovery from loss of balance or walking ability," says Dain LaRoche, assistant professor of exercise science at UNH and the lead author of the study. Preventing falls, which occur in 40 percent of people over 65 and are the top reason for injury-related emergency room visits, is the driving force behind LaRoche's research agenda.
LaRoche compared the initial strength of 25 young (18 33) and 24 old (65 84) inactive women then had both groups participate in resistance training on a machine that targeted knee extensor muscles, which are critical for walking, stair-climbing, or rising from a chair. "They're what let you live on your own," he says.
After eight weeks of training, the older group not only increased their strength by the same percentage as the younger group, they achieved gained strength similar to a control group of young inactive women. But the older group's ability to increase power force over time was significantly less than the younger group's; the elderly women saw only a ten percent increase in power versus the younger women's 50 percent increase.
"It's somewhat troublesome that these older individuals had a reduced capacity to increase performance that's so closely associated
|Contact: Beth Potier|
University of New Hampshire