Strength and endurance

Strength And Endurance

Over the past couple of years, exercise scientists have discovered that senior athletes respond to strength and endurance training just as effectively as younger athletes, and that older athletes can limit their risk of heart disease by continuing to engage in regular activity.

However, a new study suggests that the time span of adaptive changes may be different in active seniors, compared to younger sportspeople.

In the new study, scientists at the University of Western Ontario in Canada asked 10 elderly women (average age = 81) to participate in an eight-week programme designed to strengthen their quadriceps muscles. The women trained three times per week, using three sets of 10 reps per workout. Each rep consisted simply of lifting the lower Part of the leg (extension at the knee) so that the leg was parallel to the ground after each rep. Ankle weights provided appropriate resistance .

Usually, novice strength trainers make fairly rapid improvements in muscle power during their first few weeks of training, even before muscle cells begin to enlarge and toughen, probably because their coordination is improving as their nervous systems learn how to perform the appropriate movements. However, the senior athletes in the Western Ontario study failed to improve at all during the first four weeks of their programme but blossomed during the second four-week period, upgrading muscle strength by a whopping 61 per cent in the latter time frame.

It appears that older athletes respond to strength training extremely well but that the response may be delayed, compared to younger trainers. As a result, senior athletes should not be discouraged if they fail to see improvements during the first few weeks of their training programmes. The gains in strength and endurance will eventually come, and they will be comparable in magnitude to the enhancements achieved by much younger athletes! ('Time Course of Strength Gain during Resistance

Training in the Elderly, Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology, vol. 18(4), p. 441P, 1993)

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