A new study from the University of New Hampshire finds that elderly women can increase muscle strength as much as young women can, indicating that decline in muscle function is less a natural part of the aging process than due to a decline in physical activity.
The research compared strength gains of inactive elderly women and inactive young women after both groups participated in an eight-week training regime.
Yet while the two groups increased similar percentages of strength, the older group was far less effective in increasing power, which is more closely related to preventing falls.
“Power is more important than strength for recovery from loss of balance or walking ability,” says Dain LaRoche, assistant professor of exercise science at UNH and the lead author of the study.
Preventing falls, which occur in 40 percent of people over 65 and are the top reason for injury-related emergency room visits, is the driving force behind LaRoche’s research agenda.
LaRoche compared the initial strength of 25 young (18 – 33) and 24 old (65 – 84) inactive women then had both groups participate in resistance training on a machine that targeted knee extensor muscles, which are critical for walking, stair-climbing, or rising from a chair. “They’re what let you live on your own,” he says.
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