Researchers at the University of Florida conclude that high or low intensity resistance training will improve cardiovascular fitness in elderly people. Cardiorespiratory fitness measured as the maximum oxygen consumption (VO2max) during treadmill testing is strongly associated with the risk of heart disease, stroke, hypertension, and overall mortality. Low cardiorespiratory fitness (low VO2max) equates to an increased risk and mortality. It is generally believed that the best, if not the only, way of improving cardiac fitness is by endurance (aerobic) exercise (running, jogging, tennis, cycling, etc.) vigorous enough to bring the heart rate into the appropriate training range. Whilst this may be true for young and middle-aged people there is now a strong indication that resistance training (weight lifting) can markedly improve cardiorespiratory fitness in elderly people. The University of Florida's study involved 62 men and women between the ages of 60 and 85 years. The participants were randomly assigned to a control group, a low-intensity exercise group or a high-intensity group. For the next six months the participants took part in resistance training three times a week. The exercises used were abdominal crunch, leg press, leg extension, leg curl, calf press, seated row, chest press, overhead press, biceps curl, seated dip, leg abduction, leg adduction, and lumbar extensions. The low-intensity group did 13 repetitions at 50 per cent of the maximum weight they had been able to move at the beginning of the trial period whilst the high-intensity group did 8 repetitions at 80 per cent of their initial maximum performance.
At the end of the six-month period all participants were evaluated for muscle strength and cardiovascular
fitness. Muscle strength had increased by an average of 17.2 per cent and 17.8 per cent in the low-intensity
and high-intensity groups respectively. The peak oxygen consumption during treadmill testing increased by
23.5 per cent and the treadmill time to exhaustion by 26.4 per cent in the low-intensity group. The
comparable increases in the high-intensity group were 20.1 per cent and 23.3 per cent. There was no
change in peak oxygen consumption and only a slight increase (5 per cent) in treadmill time to exhaustion in
the control group.
The researchers conclude that high or low intensity resistance training will increase cardiorespiratory fitness
in elderly people. This is excellent news since jogging can be very hard on the knees – particularly elderly