Volume 16 (1997) Issue 6 Pages 257-266
Previous studies concerning psychological benefits of exercise among the elderly has focused predominantly on the effects of aerobic exercise. In the present study, psychological and behavioral adaptations in response to 12-weeks of strength training were examined in medically healthy but sedentary 42 older adults (mean age=68 years). The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of high and low intensity resistance training intensity on a) muscular fitness, b) psychological affect, and c) neurocognitive functioning. Subjects were randomly assigned to high intensity/low volume (EXH: 2 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions for 75 to 85% of 1 RM), low intensity/high volume (EXL: 2 sets of 14 to 16 repetitions for 55 to 65% of 1 RM), or no exercise control programs. Prior to and following the 12-week program, subjects underwent comprehensive physiological and psychological evaluations. Physiological assessment included measurements of blood pressure, heart rate, arm and leg muscle strength, body composition, and oxygen consumption (VO2max). Psychological measures included evaluations of mood, anxiety, and physical self-efficacy as well as cognitive functioning. The results of this study indicated that both high and low intensity strength programs were associated with marked improvements in physiological fitness and psychological functioning. Specifically, subjects in the strength training programs increased overall muscle strength by 38.6% and reduced percent body fat by 3.0%. Favorable psychological changes in the strength-trained subjects included improvements in positive and negative mood, trait anxiety, and perceived confidence for physical capability. The treatment effects of neurocognitive functioning were not significant. In summary, this study demonstrated that participation in 12-weeks of high or low intensity strength training can improve overall physical fitness, mood, and physical self-efficacy in older adults while cognitive functioning remains constant.