Older people need to use it or lose it according to DCU research

Brendan Fernando Kelly Palenque

Image Credit: Air Force Medical Service

Older adults must continue to do strength training exercises in order to maintain any gains according to a new study led by researchers at the School of Health and Human Performance at DCU.

The research, which was co-funded by the Irish Research Council and Medfit Proactive Healthcare, first studied a group of 53 adults doing supervised exercise over a period of 12 weeks. One year later, the researchers followed up to see what their body composition and physical and cognitive function was like.

Lead investigator Doctor Brendan Egan told The College View that one year on, around 90 per cent of participants were still doing aerobic exercises. However, only one in five were still doing strength training exercises.

“Everyone should be getting two sessions of strength training in per week,” he said. “And that becomes particularly important as we age because as you lose muscle function… older adults lose independence and their quality of life declines.”

Strength training is a type of exercise that uses resistance to cause muscular contraction, which builds strength, anaerobic endurance, the size of skeletal muscles and bone density.

Egan said that the researchers always intended to follow-up one year later, however, they made sure not to tell the participants until three weeks before the anniversary of their first workout session.

“The idea there was we wouldn’t give them too much opportunity to sort of try and get fit or anything like that,” he said. “If they knew they were going to get checked in on in a year’s time, that could have biased them.”

As for why many of the older adults stopped doing strength training exercises, it was due to a number of key barriers. In particular, many of them disliked the gym environment.

During their supervised twelve week sessions, they exercised in Medfit Proactive Healthcare’s Blackrock gym, which Egan described as “intimate”.

“There’s a spectrum of sort of gym environments, from the kind of example I’m giving of Medfit, up to the kind of Flyefit: everyone walks in, music blaring, powder is flying everywhere. It’s sort of the antithesis of what the older adult wants.”

Egan also said that many of the participants enjoyed the social aspect of their training sessions. Twelve of the participants were interviewed in the study, and in general there was a preference for more community venues which were seen as “more welcoming” could “build a sense of camaraderie”.

Brendan Fernando Kelly Palenque

Image Credit: Air Force Medical Service