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A new study led by the University of New South Wales in Sydney shows that men and women over the age of 50 can obtain similar relative benefits from resistance training.
Although men may gain more absolute muscle size, the growth relative to body size is the same as that of women.
Research results, recently published in
, Combining the results of 30 different resistance training studies involving more than 1,400 participants. This article specifically compares the results of men and women over 50.
Dr Amanda Hagstrom
The senior author of the study and a lecturer in exercise science at the University of New South Wales School of Medicine and Hygiene explained: “Historically, people tend to think that men are more adaptable in resistance training than women.
"The difference we found is mainly related to how we view the data—that is, absolute or relative. "Absolute" focuses on overall benefits, while "relative" is based on the percentage of body size."
This paper is the first systematic review and meta-analysis to examine whether older men and women have different resistance training results. These findings add to previous studies on differences between young people (18-50 years old), which suggests that men and women can achieve similar relative muscle size gains.
Researchers compared the muscle mass and strength gains of 651 elderly men and 759 elderly women in 30 studies. Participants are between 50 and 90 years old, and most people have no previous resistance training experience.
Although 50-year-olds are generally not considered "elderly", given that menopausal hormone changes may affect the results of resistance training, it was selected as the threshold for this study.
Dr. Hagstrom pointed out: “We found that there is no gender difference in relative muscle size or upper body strength changes in the elderly.
“For trainers, it’s important to understand that compared to the baseline, women benefit as much as men in terms of relative improvement.”
Researchers have found that older men tend to develop larger muscles when looking at absolute gains, so they are also more likely to see greater absolute improvement in upper and lower body strength.
However, relative to lower body strength, elderly women have the largest increase.
Dr. Hagstrom added: "Our research reveals the possibility that we should program differently for older men and women to maximize their training benefits.
"Older men may benefit from a higher intensity exercise program to improve their absolute upper and lower body strength.
"But older women may benefit from a higher overall exercise volume, that is, repeated exercise multiple times a week to increase their relative and absolute lower body strength."
Dr. Hagstrom pointed out that feeling strong and having bigger muscles are not the only benefits of resistance training. He concluded: “Strength training is very important and beneficial to our health, especially for the elderly.
"It can help prevent and treat many age-related chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis."
View the study.
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