Personal Training Bellevue | Resistance Training Trumps Cardio for Older Adults

Many older adults tend to use walking as their primary form of exercise. Recent research suggests that it is far better to make resistance training your primary exercise, and cardio (walking) secondary. Researchers at Wake Forest University; Winston-Salem, NC recently published their findings in the journal Obesity, concluding that combining a strength training (resistance) regimen with a calorie restricted diet would preserve lean muscle mass, which could be lost through cardio training.

Kristen Beavers, assistant professor of health and exercise science at Wake Forest said: “A lot of older adults will walk as their exercise of choice, but this research shows that if you’re worried about losing muscle, weight training can be the better option.”

The 18-month study included 249 overweight/obese adults in their 60’s. Participants were randomized into three groups: resistance training plus diet; walking plus diet; and diet alone. Of note, the resistance training plus diet group lost the least amount of muscle, while having a significant fat loss. Preserving muscle while losing fat is extremely important for older adults who want to maintain functionality in their lives. “Surprisingly, we found that cardio workouts may actually cause older adults with obesity to lose more lean mass than dieting alone,” said Beavers.

Final results: over the 18 month period those in the resistance training group lost about 17# of fat, the walking plus group lost about 16# fat, and those in the dieting only group lost about 10# fat. The walking plus diet group lost the leanest muscle mass, about 4#, compared with the other two groups, which lost 2# each.

Beavers indicated that the results may be even more important for older adults whose weight fluctuates because seniors usually regain fat rather than muscle! “All the more reason for older adults to try and preserve muscle mass during weight loss,” said Beavers.

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