New study compares muscle mass and strength gains in older men and women
A study from an Australian university compared the results of women and men aged 50 to 90 who started resistance training exercise programs, finding that though men were more likely to gain absolute muscle size, their gains were on par with women’s relative to body size.
Senior study author Mandy Hagstrom explained the results in the context of typically held theories.
“Historically, people tended to believe that men adapted to a greater degree from resistance training compared to women,” she explained. “The differences we found primarily relate to how we look at the data. ‘Absolute’ looks at the overall gains, while ‘relative’ is a percentage based on their body size.”
The findings, published recently in the journal Sports Medicine, compared muscle mass and strength gains in more than 650 older men and 750 older women across 30 resistance training studies. Most participants had no previous resistance training experience.
“We found no sex differences in changes in relative muscle size or upper body strength in older adults,” Hagstrom said. “It’s important for trainers to understand that women benefit just as much as men in terms of relative improvement compared to their baseline.”
They found that when looking at absolute gains, older men gained bigger muscles and had greater improvements to upper and lower body strength. Women saw the biggest increases when it came to relative lower body strength.
“Our study sheds light on the possibility that we should be programming differently for older men and women to maximize their training benefits,” Hagstrom said.
The researchers further analyzed which resistance training techniques gave men and women the best results.
“Older men might benefit from higher intensity programs to improve their absolute upper and lower body strength,” Hagstrom said. “But older women might benefit from higher overall exercise volumes to increase their relative and absolute lower body strength.”
They noted resistance training offers a number of health benefits, including increasing stamina, balance, flexibility and bone density. It also can improve sleep and sense of well-being, as well as decrease injury.
SOURCE: HealthDay, Sports Medicine