Strength training weekly sufficient for older adults

Many of my clients are older adults, and many only train with me once per week. Is that sufficient to make a difference?

Great news for healthy older adults who may not be able to weight-train more than once a week. For 60- to 75-year-old men and women, supervised whole-body resistance training once weekly for six months led to significantly less inflammation, lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and better overall well-being.

Individuals who trained three times per week received the same benefits and had significantly less body fat and more muscle mass. Participants saw increases in HDL cholesterol whether they trained once, twice or three times weekly, but significant reductions in LDL occurred only in those who trained three times per week. These findings are published in Frontiers in Physiology (2019; doi:10.3389/fphys.2019.00032.)

University of Jyväskylä researchers in Finland led the study to evaluate the effects of resistance training frequency on older adults’ body composition, inflammation markers, lipid levels and glycemic profile. Researchers randomly divided 106 subjects into four groups: resistance training once, twice or three times weekly, and a control group. Training sessions consisted of 2–5 sets of seven to nine total-body exercises, with 4–12 repetitions per set, for 6 months.

“We found that individuals who were close to having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood glucose, or high levels of inflammation improved the most,” said principal investigator Simon Walker, PhD, faculty of Sports and Health Sciences at University of Jyväskylä. “Training two or three times per week didn’t provide greater benefit in these individuals.” He noted that for maximum strength gains, muscle growth and fat loss, training more times per week was better. “But for other measures that are important for older people, such as the ability to perform activities of daily living, once per week seemed sufficient.