Self-selected resistance training in inactive older women

Could a new approach to resistance training improve physical fitness and psychological responses to exercise?

Physical activity is highly recommended to limit the negative effects of aging. One of its components is resistance training (RT), which has been proved effective in improving various dimensions of health, including muscle strength and mass, global function, psychological and even social aspects. The World Health Organization recommends for older people to perform resistance training at least twice a week in addition to endurance training.

However, it seems that the overall proportion of older people meeting these recommendations is rather low. Moreover, a huge number of people tend to abandon physical activities (and therefore, RT) in a few months of their involvement in them, which in the end reduces the number of older persons practicing RT and increases inactivity. 

Strategies to incite them to be active are studied in the literature and, among them, psychological aspects of exercise (particularly affective responses such as pleasure/ displeasure) have shown to be strongly linked with continued exercise activity and behaviour. For example, previous studies showed that self-selected exercise load (i.e., individuals choose their own exercise intensity) was a good way of fostering autonomy and pleasure, increasing involvement in exercise. Similar conclusions were found for self-selected RT approaches (SSRT): more pleasure, less exertion, positive physical adaptations (muscle strength and mass, function).

The present RCT therefore assessed the effects of a twelve-week SSRT programme on physical fitness in inactive older women, while investigating their psychological response to exercise. The approach was found as effective to improve physical activity and increase pleasure among this population.


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