How long do the effects of strength training persist in the elderly after habitual exercise stops? Not very long, says a study from BMC Geriatrics.

 

mature athletes, elderly training clients, personal training elderlyThe study examined 69 “prefrail” adults from 65-94 years-old. “Frail” is defined as requiring long-term care and being vulnerable to disability and death. The adults in this study were “prefrail,” the stage prior to frailty. Subjects participated in a 12-week exercise program. After the 12 weeks each subject ceased exercising and maintained his normal physical activity. Physical abilities were measured at baseline, immediately after the 12 week exercise program, and again at 12 and 24 weeks after the exercise program ceased.

 

The researchers also threw in one more variable: half of the subjects performed a strength training program while the other half performed a power training program. The two programs differed only in that the power program was performed at high intensity with limited rest.

 

What were the effects of the 12-week exercise programs? Standing balance, ability to rise from a chair quickly, and walking speed were all significantly improved with both programs. But at 12 and 24 weeks after the exercise programs concluded, the results had largely disappeared. Interestingly, the positive results from the power training group persisted slightly better than the strength training group. But the high level of effort required for the power training also caused two of the subjects to quit the program.

 

My conclusion from this study: elderly trainees require training consistency for their results to persist - possibly much more consistency than younger trainees. I also find it interesting that the results of the power training program persisted longer than moderate-intensity strength training. This lends some credence to programs that use high-intensity training. The power training program also lost two participants due to the nature of the program. This shows that high intensity programs must be carefully designed and coached in order to prevent attrition, much less injury.

 

References:

1. Zech, et al. Residual effects of muscle strength and muscle power training and detraining on physical function in community-dwelling prefrail older adults: a randomized controlled trial. BMC Geriatrics 12:68, 2012.

 

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