There is an unfortunate tendency, particularly the older a person gets, to discourage people away from loading their bodies (also known as resistance training).
Age discrimination accelerates muscle atrophy (loss of muscle from not being used - also known as 'wasting away'). The loss of muscle mass and strength at an accelerated rate are hallmarks of aging that, without intervention, eventually lead to physical disability and loss of independence. Sounds like a fast-track to "getting old"...
We know that resistance exercise is effective at maintaining muscle health with increasing age. A recent study highlights that we also know resistance exercise has significant effects on cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors, type 2 diabetes (T2D), cancer risk factors, and mortality.
“Older adults are at risk of losing muscle mass and strength at an accelerated rate, increasing their risk of developing the aforementioned conditions, as well as loss of independence and mortality. Therefore, participating in activities that increase, or at a minimum, maintain, muscle mass and strength should be a critical component of exercise prescription for OAs.”
This is not to say aerobic exercise has no role. However, most older adults do not exercise and the majority of those who do only perform one type of exercise.We know aerobic exercise can increase muscle mass and strength, though not consistently. The muscle gains from aerobic exercise may be limited to a particular muscle group, such as legs from stationary bicycling.
Aerobic and resistance training benefit each other. And both benefit the wellbeing of a person. But if an older adult is likely to only be consistent with one strategy for staying active, resistance training should be given some real consideration.
Tavoian D, Russ DW, Consitt LA, Clark BC. Perspective: Pragmatic Exercise Recommendations for Older Adults: The Case for Emphasizing Resistance Training. Front Physiol. 2020;11:799. Published 2020 Jul 3. doi:10.3389/fphys.2020.00799