Women Over 60 May Only Need to Exercise Once a Week
A new study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) suggests that exercising only one day per week could be all women over the age of 60 need to significantly improve endurance and all-around strength. The results of this clinical study have been published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
The UAB researchers monitored 63 women who took aerobic exercise courses and resistance exercise courses for 16 weeks. One group of women took these courses one time per week, and the second group took their exercise courses twice each week, while the third took classes three times a week. Over the course of the stud, there were significant increases in cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, and functional tasks reported in all three groups of women, but no significant differences between any of the groups.
Overcoming Traditional Barriers to Exercise Regimens
“One of the biggest barriers to exercise training for the older female population is adherence, and one of the key findings in this study is that doing a little bit of exercise can go a long way,” stated Dr. Gordon Fisher, the lead investigator for this study.
“Telling people that they need to do at least three to five days of exercise to improve their overall health can be a major obstacle,” explained Fisher. “Lack of time is the most often-cited barrier to exercise adherence. This study demonstrates that doing as little as one AET and one RET workout each week can provide a lot of benefit for older women’s overall quality of life and health.”
While higher frequency, duration, and intensity training sessions have been shown to be more effective with younger adults, this is a study that has taken them out of the equation. In fact, this is something that not many weight loss clinical studies have been focused on, i.e. what works best for older women. This research suggests that the escalating overload that works best for a younger demographic might not be best applied to women over the age of 60.
Less may be More for Older Women
“Before I saw the data, if anyone told me that the group that only exercised once a week would improve their leg press more than 45 pounds during a 16-week period, I would have been quite surprised,” exclaimed Fischer. . “We were also surprised that all three groups increased their lean muscle mass but did not have any significant decreases in body weight.”
This consideration is quite significant, as it is common knowledge that skeletal muscle mass decreases throughout the aging process. This means that preserving lean muscle is very important for older adults. Weight loss was not the primary target for this clinical study, and none of the participants were asked to alter their regular dietary habits.
Consider a Low-Frequency Workout if You’re Over 60
Prior to the start of this study, the UAB research team had to determine these women’s ability to engage in daily tasks such as standing, sitting, walking, and climbing stairs. They all had to complete a 3 mph walk test to determine their working heart rate and oxygen consumption. Prior to this study, the average working heart rate was 110 beats-per-minute, but after this study, the average was 92 beats-per-minute following the same test. This means that it was much easier for the women to complete this task.
For older adults, Fisher recommends a low-frequency, combined AET/RET training regimen to help optimize their endurance, strength, and overall quality of life. Additionally, physical therapists may want to consider these recommendations when working with an individual who doesn’t have the capacity to perform vigorous exercise or high intensity training.