Background and Purpose: Older individuals are at a greater risk for falling, and this risk has been linked to age-related declines in strength and balance. It has been demonstrated that older individuals can increase strength and function from properly designed, supervised training programs; however, little is known about the regressive effects of a detraining period in this participant population once the training intervention has ended. This study examined changes in strength 6 months after training following a 40- or 80-week supervised progressive resistance training program.
Methods: Of the 25 men and 44 women (aged 55–75 years) who returned for testing 6 months after training, 38 had continued to exercise on their own (Ex) and 31 stopped training (NoEx). This represents 40.8% of the original 169 participants that were contacted. Individual measures of strength were averaged to represent a measure of mean upper body or lower body strength. Changes in mean 1RM (one repetition maximum) strength and percent changes in strength were analyzed for PRE (pretraining), POST (posttraining), and 6MP (6 months post) time points by mixed-factor ANOVAs (analyses of variance).
Results: Upper and lower body strengths were still significantly higher than baseline values, 6MP training for both groups. However, the longer-duration (80 week) training program provided a greater, although non–statistically significant, ability to maintain strength at higher levels at 6MP training compared to the strength values obtained at the end of the two different training periods. In addition, lower body strength was better maintained than measures of upper body strength independent of initial training duration.
Discussion: This study confirms that older individuals can tolerate a progressive strength training program of significant duration and that older individuals may undergo a regression of strength at a similar pace to young individuals.
Conclusion: Supervised strength training represents an efficacious intervention for improving strength in older adults with residual benefits lasting longer than previously expected.