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Study: Heavy strength training at retirement age helps keep you mobile

By Dennis Thompson, HealthDay News
One year of heavy strength training in people of retirement age preserves vital leg strength up to at least four years later, a new study found. Photo by Adobe Stock/HealthDay News
One year of heavy strength training in people of retirement age preserves vital leg strength up to at least four years later, a new study found. Photo by Adobe Stock/HealthDay News

Folks nearing retirement shouldn't skip leg days at the gym, a new study advises.

One year of heavy strength training preserves vital leg strength up to at least four years later, researchers found.

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"This study provides evidence that resistance training with heavy loads at retirement age can have long-term effects over several years," concluded the research team led by Carl-Johan Boraxbekk, a professor of cognitive neuroscience of aging with Umea University in Sweden.

For the study, researchers assigned 369 people at an average of 66 to one of three different groups.

One-third lifted heavy weights three times a week for a year, while another third performed moderate intensity training with body weight or resistance bands thrice weekly. The remaining third were encouraged to maintain their usual level of physical activity.

Bone, muscle strength and body fat were measured at the start of the clinical trial, then again after one, two and four years.

Leg strength was preserved at the same level in the heavy weights group after four years, but not in the other two groups.

Meanwhile, fat levels remained the same in the exercise groups but not in the control group, results show.

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All three groups experienced similar decreases in handgrip strength, lean leg mass and leg extensor power -- the ability to kick a pedal as hard and as fast as possible.

The new study was published Tuesday in the journal BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine.

Doctors could use these results to encourage seniors to engage in heavy resistance training, as it will make it easier for them to retain their mobility and independence as they age, researchers said.

"In well-functioning older adults at retirement age, one year of heavy resistance training may induce long-lasting beneficial effects by preserving muscle function," they concluded.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on strength training for older adults.

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