The Effects of Progressive Resistance Training on the Strength of Individuals Older than 80 Years of Age

By Dennis Hunt, Ellen Williamson and Kerri Rautenkranz.

Published by The International Journal of Aging and Society

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The purpose of this study was to examine whether high intensity (HI), lower extremity (LE) progressive resistance training (PRT) in older adults improves lower body muscular strength. The study used a one-group, pre-test, post-test quasi-experimental design. The variable of interest (dependent) was muscular strength and was measured by five repetition maximum (5RMs) assessments. The intervention (independent variable) was high-intensity PRT for the lower extremities. Subjects performed PRT three times a week for 10 weeks using three exercises: leg press, leg extension, and leg curl. The subjects were seven balance-impaired, community-dwelling active older adults with a mean age of 85 (range 80–90 years of age) from a senior living community. Statistically significant improvements in lower extremity strength were observed in each of three movements (p=<.05). A moderate to strong positive correlation was also observed between the post-treatment mean predicted one repetition maximums (1RMs) for each of the lower extremity exercises and subject attendance. The outcome of this study suggests participating in a HI PRT program may result in positive strength gains in the very old adult population. High-intensity PRT in this study was found to be safe and sustainable with the population studied. Future studies are needed to replicate these observations and to determine if high-intensity PRT improves functional indices in older adults.

Keywords: Exercise, High Intensity Training, Resistance Training, Very Old

Aging and Society: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp.41-54. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 605.434KB).

Dr. Dennis Hunt

Director of Exercise Science Program and Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy and Human Performance, College of Health Professions, Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers, FL, USA

Dr. Hunt currently serves as an assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy and Human Performance at Florida Gulf Coast University. He is also the director of the Human Performance Program for the College of Health Professions. Prior to coming to FGCU, he worked at Eastern University where he was a recipient of the EU President’s Extra Mile Award. He has more than 25 years of experience in designing exercise training programs for a variety of populations. He has presented both nationally and internationally on topics related to resistance training, specifically periodization and exercise specific training programs. His presentations in Poland, Mexico and Guatemala dealt with the efficacy of using multiple training variables to enhance training outcomes. He has a research interest in how resistance training can be effectively utilized in diverse populations to enhance overall health, well-being, and functional independence.

Ellen Williamson

Assistant Professor, College of Health Professions, Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers, FL, USA

Founding department chair for Physical Therapy at FGCU and has overseen its expansion from one program to three, serving hundreds of university students annually. She graduated with a degree in physical therapy from Boston University in 1985. She earned her MS in Adult Education from Syracuse University. Prior to coming to Florida Gulf Coast University, she was Director of Clinical Education for the Physical Therapy Program at the University at Buffalo. She is currently a doctoral candidate in Curriculum and Instruction—Measurement and Research at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Her areas of teaching expertise include pediatric physical therapy, professional issues, and wellness.

Kerri Rautenkranz

Physcial Therapy Student, Florida Gulf Coast University, FL, USA