Middle-age and older adults fell short, with 76.3% not meeting recommendations for regular participation in muscle-strengthening exercises, according to a study published by the CDC.
Evidence has shown strength training for these age groups can help to promote health, functional fitness and functional independence. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends adults perform muscle strengthening exercises targeting all major muscle groups at least two days a week.
For the new study, Jesse W. Vezina, MS, of Arizona State University, in Phoneix, and colleagues examined the prevalence of adults meeting the DHS strength training guidelines and the social and demographic factors related to meeting the guidelines. The findings were published Sept. 18 on the CDC website.
The investigators examined data on 337,507 adults ages 45 and older from the 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, an annual, state-based telephone survey, in which respondents were asked about their type and frequency of exercise. The questions differentiated between strengthening activities such as yoga, sit-ups, push-ups or using weight machines, free weights and elastic bands and aerobic activities such as walking, running, bicycling, calisthenics, golf or gardening.
Of the participants, 53.1% were female, 33.4% were ages 65 or older, 26% were college graduates and 74.5% were non-Hispanic white. Good or better health was reported by 76.3% of participants, and 68.7% were considered overweight or obese.
Researchers found overall, 23.7% of the adults reported reaching the goal of muscle-strengthening exercises two days per week. A number of factors including age, gender, education level and health status were associated with reaching the strengthening exercise recommendation, findings showed.
Among the findings:
Odds of meeting the recommendation decreased as age increased. Compared with those ages 45-54 (26% compliance rate), adults ages 55-64 were 10% less likely to meet the goal, and adults 65-74 were 8% less likely. The odds of meeting the recommendation were 20% lower for adults 75-84, and 31% lower for those 85 and older.
Women were less likely to meet the goal than men, with compliance rates of 21.9% and 25.9%, respectively.
34.2% of college graduates met the recommendation, compared with 18.5% of those with only a high school diploma and 14.4% of those who had not completed high school.
30.2% of normal weight respondents met the goal, compared with 24.9% of overweight adults, 16.9% of obese adults and 24.2% of those considered underweight.
Respondents who reported their health was good or better also were more likely to meet the recommendation (26.5%) compared with those who said it was fair or poor (15.2%).
30.6% of those who reported income of more than $50,000 a year complied, with rates decreasing as income levels decreased.
Muscle strengthening activities are necessary to maintain health and physical function, the authors wrote in the study.
This fact is of particular importance in the aging population, given the high association of aging with decreases in skeletal muscle size and function and the decline in participation in strength-training activities, they wrote. Continuing to develop interventions to target adults throughout their lifespan, including well beyond the age of 65, may offer a strategy to attenuate the effects of sarcopenia and increase physical function in advancing age while also helping to control other cardiometabolic risk factors.
The researchers point out the study has limitations from self-reported data and the study design prevented them from inferring causality. The BRFSS question about muscle-strengthening activities also was vague and open to interpretation, according to the researchers.
Our findings indicate that there continues to be a precipitous decline in participation in muscle-strengthening activities associated with aging, and that this decline does not stop at age 65, the authors wrote in the study. Furthermore, many other sociodemographic variables such as income, education, race/ethnicity, weight and health status appear to be predictive of participation in muscle strengthening activities. The information gained through this research could be used to help identify which sociodemographic subgroups are most in need of such interventions.