The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) says that age should not be a limiting factor for beginning an exercise program, but you still need to check with your doctor before starting. Also, the exercises should be progressive in nature, individualized and involve all the major muscle groups. They should be done two to three times a week with at least one set of eight to 15 reps. Multiple sets coupled provide more benefits and exercise that help with balance and posture should be practiced.
Nonetheless, there is very little information available regarding the adaptability of elderly skeletal muscle to prolonged training periods. One such study involved a two-year randomized control trial of weight training in 113 male and female subjects aged 60 to 80 years.
The training program consisted of two sessions per week for a period of 42 weeks, followed by ten weeks of testing and vacation time, and then another 42 weeks of training. Each session consisted of three sets of the exercises with 10-12 reps/set at 80% of 1RM (the amount of weight for one rep max). It was determined that in both muscle groups, males were significantly stronger than females, and the 60 to 70 year old’s were significantly stronger than the 70 to 80 year old’s. In addition, strength increased continually for each group over the entire two-year period with no prolonged plateau.
To summarize, current research indicates that elderly muscle can adapt positively, just like young muscle, to resistance exercise. Significant improvements in strength occurring from muscle hypertrophy may be the result of an increased sensitivity of androgen receptors and increased levels of circulating factors responsible for muscle growth, such as testosterone.
Weight-training is not an every day affair. Don’t forget to integrate a cardio program into your life, too. The important thing is to do it. Check out the item on Exercise, Aging and the Brain. You brain benefits as much as your body when you work out.