As we age it’s common to lose muscle strength. It’s believed the decline can begin as early as our 40s and becomes more pronounced by the time we reach our mid 60s (1). But just because it’s normal that doesn’t mean we have to take it lying down – in fact, the best advice is to do exactly the opposite! Walking, sports, recreational activities: there are many ways to get exercise but your routine should also include some strength or resistance training exercise to help build and maintain muscle (2). That’s particularly important for seniors as it improves strength, mobility and balance, all of which minimize the risk of falls (3).
Options for strength training include bodybuilding machines as well as free weights – gyms and fitness centres are full of them. But some older adults may not be able to, or even want to, go to a gym. On the other hand home exercise equipment can be expensive, bulky and cumbersome. A potential solution is resistance training using elastic materials in the shape of bands or tubes. They’re easily available, inexpensive and take up hardly any space. But can these simple elastic bands really help increase muscle strength?
To answer that question, a systematic review analyzed the results of 10 randomized controlled trials involving a total of 834 people between the ages of 60 and 79 (4). Their strength was measured both before and after participating in resistance training programs. The programs ranged from six to 24 weeks with participants training from one to five times a week.
The studies included participants with a range of health conditions: some were considered healthy; some had functional disabilities; others had multiple or chronic conditions. The elastic resistance training included a variety of exercises, targeting muscles in both the upper and lower body.
What the research tells us
Evidence from the systematic review supports using elastic resistance training as an effective way of increasing muscle strength among older adults.
The effects of training with elastic bands or tubes were most pronounced in healthy older adults as well as those with some physical limitations. Improvements were less obvious in people with more serious conditions such as COPD.
One of the main advantages of elastic bands or tubes is that they can be used to perform a wide variety of exercises and are appropriate for people of all fitness levels: it is easy to alter the amount of resistance as needed. If you’re looking for a cost effective addition to your exercise routine, why not give elastic resistance training a try?
Looking for other ways to stay active, or want to know more about the benefits of exercise? Click here to read more blog posts on the topic.