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Pumping iron helps granny, too.

Pumping iron helps granny, too

It's never too late to fight the weakening ravages of time with high-intensity muscle training, even if you're an arthritic nonagenarian with heart disease, say researchers from Harvard Medical School, two aging centers and two local hospitals in the Boston area. They found that a group of frail nursing-home residents, aged 86 to 96, achieved dramatic gains in strength, muscle mass and walking speed after an eight-week program of supervised, high-resistance of leg training.

Three times a week, the six women and four men lifted and lowered each leg 24 times, initially training against resistance weights set at 50 percent of the maximum load they could handle. By week two, each volunteer was pumping 80 percent of his or her maximum tolerated load. Though concern about straining a repaired hernia caused one of the youngest to drop out in week four, the rest completed the program safely.

By the end of two months, most participants had reaped a three- to fourfold increase in leg strength, report Maria A. Fiatarone and her co-workers in the June 13 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION. "It is likely that at the end of training these subjects were stronger than they had been many years previously," the team asserts. Two volunteers gave up their canes, and one woman regained the ability to rise from a chair without using her arms. Among the four who took a heel-to-toe walking test, training boosted walking speed an average of 48 percent.

But sustaining such gains requires a lasting commitment. During a four-week sedentary period following the regimen, leg strength dropped an average of 32 percent, the investigators note.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Jun 23, 1990
Words:276
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