Muscle mass, strength and physical performance are declining throughout the aging process. Exercise training is an important role for the elderly population. Does each type of exercise or training serve different benefits for people over 60?
A team of researchers from the Institute of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at National Taiwan University College of Public Health, led by Dr. Kuo-Liong Chien, undertook a network meta-analysis project aimed at searching the literature, evaluating the data, and analyzing the differences between the effects of exercise interventions on muscle mass, muscle strength, and physical performance in older people. Evidence from randomized controlled trials of resistance training, endurance training, and whole-body vibration were combined. Their study compared the relative effectiveness of pairs of interventions, even if these interventions have never been compared directly in randomized trials, and it allows interventions to be ranked.
Data were obtained from 30 trials involving 1405 older men and women. The results of this meta-analysis provides evidence of an overall benefit of resistance training on muscle strength and physical performance in older people, especially in men and healthy adults. The findings also suggest that whole-body vibration has a beneficial effect on physical performance. However, none of the three exercise interventions (resistance training, endurance training and whole body vibration) examined had a significant effect on lean body mass.
The findings are most applicable to older people who consider exercise a method to delay the rate of sarcopenia. According to our research study, resistance training is effective for improving muscle strength and physical performance in older people. Following our review of the existing scientific evidence on the benefits of resistance training, a typical exercise prescription is 1-3 sets of 6-15 repetitions performed 1-3 nonconsecutive days each week using the major muscles with low to moderate intensity, at least 6 weeks of training. However, collective clinical experience suggests that if older people cannot keep complete control of their body while training (e.g., dementia), resistance training may cause injury. In addition, while whole-body vibration may give small improvements in physical performance in older people, there are some practical considerations. Standing on the vibration system is easiest and most effective for older people who are unable to follow instructions and thus perhaps find it difficult to complete other forms of exercises.
The full systematic review was published in May in Age and Ageing.