In a new study, researchers found that men and women aged over 50 can reap similar relative benefits from resistance training.
While men are likely to gain more absolute muscle size, the gains relative to body size are on par to women’s.
The research was conducted by a team at UNSW Sydney.
The findings consolidated the results of 30 different resistance training studies involving over 1400 participants. This study specifically compared the results of men and women aged 50 and over.
Historically, people tended to believe that men adapted to a greater degree from resistance training compared to women.
The study is the first systematic review to examine whether older men and women reap different resistance training results.
The findings add to past research on differences in younger adults (18-50), which suggested that men and women can achieve similar relative muscle size gains.
In the study, the researchers compared muscle mass and strength gains in 651 older men and 759 older women across the 30 studies.
The participants were aged between 50 and 90, with most having no prior resistance training experience.
While 50 is not typically considered an ‘older adult,” it was selected as the threshold for this study given the potential for menopausal hormone changes to influence resistance training outcomes.
The team found no sex differences in changes in relative muscle size or upper body strength in older adults.
It’s important for trainers to understand that women benefit just as much as men in terms of relative improvement compared to their baseline.
Older men tended to build bigger muscles when looking at absolute gains, the researchers found.
They were also more likely to see greater absolute improvements to upper and lower body strength.
But when it came to relatively lower body strength, older women saw the biggest increases.
They found older men might benefit from higher intensity programs to improve their absolute upper and lower body strength.
But older women might benefit from higher overall exercise volumes—that is, more weekly repetitions—to increase their relative and absolute lower body strength.
Longer training durations could also help increase relative and absolute muscle size (for older men) or absolute upper body strength (for older women).
The researchers say that feeling stronger and having bigger muscles aren’t the only benefits of resistance training.
Resistance training can offer other health benefits, like increasing a person’s stamina, balance, flexibility, and bone density. It has also been shown to help improve sleep, sense of wellbeing and decrease the risk of injury.
One author of the study is Dr. Amanda (Mandy) Hagstrom, an exercise science lecturer.
The study is published in Sports Medicine.
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