Once believed to only be beneficial for men, a new study has found that resistance training is good for women's health, too.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many people have had to become accustomed to working out from home. Whether you prefer cardio, a form of pilates or yoga, HIIT, or something else entirely, experts say it's more important than ever to maintain a consistent exercise routine for both mental and physical health benefits. While resistance training was once thought of as only beneficial for men, a new study has found that women over 50 can also reap the benefits of this style of exercise.

woman exercising
Credit: Getty: The Good Brigade

The menopausal hormone changes that often occur in women over the age of 50 may influence the outcome of resistance training, which is why this was selected as the age threshold for the study. This is the first systematic review of whether older men and women reap different resistance training results. In the study, researchers compared the muscle mass and strength gains in 651 older men and 759 older women aged between 50 and 90, with most having no prior resistance training experience.

"We found no sex differences in changes in relative muscle size or upper body strength in older adults," says Dr. Amanda Hagstrom, an exercise science lecturer at the University of New South Wales Medicine & Health and senior author of the study. "It's important for trainers to understand that women benefit just as much as men in terms of relative improvement compared to their baseline."

While both men and women can benefit from resistance training, the study also found that the specific structure of resistance-based programs may need to be tweaked for men and women. "Older men might benefit from higher intensity programs to improve their absolute upper and lower body strength," says Dr. Hagstrom. "But older women might benefit from higher overall exercise volumes—that is, more weekly repetitions—to increase their relative and absolute lower body strength."

Resistance training can offer so many health benefits for men and women including preventing chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis, as well as improving one's stamina, balance, flexibility, bone density, and even sleep.


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