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A recent, unique study has shown that older adults who take part in strength training exercises two times a week, had a decreased mortality rate.

Studies, which have been done in the past, have shown that older adults who take part in regular aerobic exercising have a better quality of life and a reduced mortality risk. The findings of these studies have also shown that exercising regularly prevents issues such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks, sudden death as well as some cancers.

Although the health benefits of aerobic exercising were demonstrated in these studies, the data on the the benefit of strength training exercises seemed to be lacking. A good reason for this could be that strength training protocols are newer recommendations, as recent as 2007, than those of aerobic exercises which are decades old.

This scenario then made researchers want to demonstrate what possible benefits were associated with strength training techniques. Small studies were done in which it was discovered that strength training showed benefits for improving strength, physical functions and muscles mass as well as improving chronic conditions such as osteoporosis, obesity, lower back pain and diabetes.

The study

Researchers wanted to focus on what the mortality effects strength training protocols would have on older adults.

Data was then analyzed from a survey, which was conducted from 1997-2001 and which included more than 30,000 patients aged 65 and older, which was linked to death certificate information up to 2011.

The findings 

It was discovered, through the mentioned survey period, that an excess of 9% of older adults had reported that they performed strength training exercises at least 2 times per week. The data of these respondents was then followed up for 15 years, up until the death certificate information was available, and it was found that a third of these people had died by 2011.

The following conclusions were then drawn from the data:

  • Older adults who performed strength training exercises at least two times a week had a 46% decreased chance of death due to any cause than those who did not. These respondents also had a 41% decreased risk of cardiac death and a 19% decreased chance of dying from cancer.

  • Older adults who had followed strength training protocols were, on average, slightly younger and were more likely to be married, white males who had taken part in higher levels of education. They were also more likely to have a normal body weight, perform aerobic exercises as well as avoid tobacco and alcohol use.

Even when the researchers adjusted the values of the findings to accommodate differences made by certain health behaviours, demographic variables and health conditions, the benefits of strength training protocols were still evident on the patients' mortality risk

Clinical significance

This study offered strong evidence to suggest that older adults, who follow strength training guidelines, can experience benefits beyond just improving physical function and muscle strength. They would also be decreasing their risk of developing cardiovascular issues and certain cancers as well as decreasing their mortality risk.

The suggestion here would then be that healthcare personnel try convince their elderly patients to take part in appropriate strength training exercises, in order to improve their quality of life

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