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For older women, exercising once a week may be enough
Is it possible that some people can build strength and endurance by only exercising once a week?
If you're an older woman, a new study suggests you might not need to exert yourself as much as younger people - and you can still benefit greatly from the fitness hours you do clock in.
Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham monitored 63 women who performed aerobic exercise training (AET) and resistance exercise training (RET) for 16 weeks. One group of women performed the exercises three times per week, a second group performed them twice a week and a third group performed them once a week. All of the women showed "significant" increases in muscular strength, cardiovascular fitness and functional tasks, but the authors note there was no significant difference in outcomes among the groups.
"Telling people that they need to do at least three to five days of exercise to improve their overall health can be a major obstacle, "Gordon Fisher, Ph.D., primary investigator of the study, said in a statement. "Lack of time is the most often-cited barrier to exercise adherence. This study demonstrates that doing as little as one AET and one RET workout each week can provide a lot of benefit for older women's overall quality of life and health."
Since adherence can be one of the biggest barriers to exercise for older females, Fisher said, the findings suggest that even a little activity can go a long way - and that the "progressive overload" of activity that may benefit younger people doesn't necessarily apply to older women.
"Before I saw the data, if anyone told me that the group that only exercised once a week would improve their leg press more than 45 pounds during a 16-week period, I would have been quite surprised," said Fisher. "We were also surprised that all three groups increased their lean muscle mass but did not have any significant decreases in body weight."
Weight loss not the goal
Fisher also noted that weight loss was not the goal of the study, but that his team was looking for a way to help women improve overall quality of life. The results, therefore, suggest that a low-frequency, combined AET/RET program might be a good way for older women to optimize strength and endurance - especially in cases where vigorous exercise is not possible.
The study appears online in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
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