The role of progressive resistance training and nutrition in the preservation of lean body mass in the elderly

J Am Coll Nutr. 1995 Dec;14(6):587-94. doi: 10.1080/07315724.1995.10718547.


Human aging is associated with an increased incidence of several chronic diseases including coronary artery disease, non insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and osteoporosis. Concurrent with the increased prevalence of these diseases in the elderly are well-documented changes in body composition that include an increased fat mass and a progressive decline in skeletal muscle mass and bone mineral density. Together these factors result in age-related decreases in muscle strength and aerobic capacity which contribute to decreases in functional independence. Progressive resistance (strength) training interventions have been proposed as countermeasures to some of these degenerative processes. Recently, several studies have reported on the effects of high intensity resistance training on muscle function and size in both healthy middle-aged men and women (50-75 years) and older frail men and women (80-100 years). In total, the majority of these studies have shown substantial increases (> 100%) in the one repetition maximum muscle strength of the muscle's being exercised in response to 8 to 12 weeks of strength training (3 to 4 times per week at 70 to 90% of the 1 repetition maximum). In addition, a subset of these reports has also reported significant increases in muscle size either by computed tomography (CT) analysis of muscle cross-sectional area (9 to 17%) or by biopsy examination of muscle fiber size changes (20 to 30%). There is now compelling evidence that progressive resistance training in the elderly can positively influence whole body energy expenditure, muscle growth, and function. In addition, strength training interventions may be a powerful tool in the prevention of age-associated sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass).

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Body Composition*
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*