Contrary to popular belief, a new Australian study of men and women over 50 has found that strength training—also known as resistance or weight training—benefits older women just as much as older men.
“Historically, people tended to believe that men adapted to a greater degree from resistance training compared to women,” exercise science lecturer at UNSW Medicine & Health and senior author of the study Amanda Hagstrom said.
In fact, men are likely to get bigger muscles, but women benefit from lifting weights at the gym, too, according to the study published in Dec. 2020.
Hagstrom said the team found “no sex differences in changes in relative muscle size or upper body strength in older adults” and that “women benefit just as much as men in terms of relative improvement.”
They shed light on the finding that older men tended to grow bigger muscles, but older women saw the most significant increases when it came to lower body strength.
The researchers suggested that women might gain more from higher overall repetitions while men would see the most results from increasing the intensity of their exercise sessions.
“Changes to exercise regimes should be made safely and with professional consultation,” Hagstrom said.
Strength training also helps not only muscles but also overall health, such as increasing a person’s energy, balance, flexibility, sense of wellbeing, and reducing the risk of injury—particularly for older people.
“It can help prevent and treat many age-related chronic diseases, like diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis,” Hagstrom said. “Learning more about resistance training and its benefits could help improve overall health outcomes for Australia’s ageing population.”
The findings combined the results of 30 different resistance training studies involving over 1,400 participants. The analysis adds to past research which found that younger adult men and women aged 18 to 50 can also achieve similar muscle gains.