Older women benefit from strength training, regardless of aerobic routine

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Women in their 60s could see significant cardiac benefits from ditching their aerobic routine for strength training, according to new research.

Regardless of time spent on the elliptical or in zumba class, women in this large-scale longitudinal cohort study exhibited decreased mortality rates when they hit the weight rack for up to 145 minutes per week, Masamitsu Kamada, PhD, and colleagues wrote in the study, published this week in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Kamada et al. used the 4-year Women’s Health Study, conducted between 2001 and 2005, to evaluate 28,879 American women who were free of cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus and cancer at baseline, according to the study. The women documented their physical activities, including strength training, during those four years.

The researchers recorded 3,055 deaths during the average 12 years of follow-up with patients, including 411 from heart disease and 748 from cancer. They found the women who stuck to a regimen of both aerobic activity and strength training like resistance or weight training saw the greatest health benefits, a finding that’s compliant with American Heart Association and current federal physical activity guidelines. Women who completed a moderate amount—one to 145 minutes per week—of strength training, independent of aerobic activity, also saw a lower risk of all-cause mortality compared with women who didn’t exercise at all.

Kamada and colleagues found that after adjusting for covariables like aerobic activity, time in strength training showed a J-shaped association with all-cause mortality in older women. In addition, the authors observed a quadratic association with cardiovascular disease death, but not with cancer death.

“The results of the cause-specific analysis showed a significant quadratic association for cardiovascular disease death but not cancer death,” the authors wrote. “This should be interpreted with caution because the number of death causes was small, resulting in low statistical power.”

They suggested another study, preferably with a larger number of outcomes, would be beneficial to the field.