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Informations sur les Sciences de l'Entraînement Sportif

Frailty and sarcopenia: Benefits of resistance training

by A. Manolova | 11 May 2021

sarcopenia, frailty, ageing, seniors, resistance training, muscle mass, strength, physical activity, prevention

Thanks to medical and technological advancements, human life expectancy has never been higher. With it, the increase in the percentage of people over 65 years old is such that in the United States, in 2030, this segment of the population will represent about 20% of the population. Increasing longevity has evolved along with radical changes in our lifestyles where malnutrition, sedentary behavior and physical inactivity have become the norm. As a result, we are living longer but with potentially more health problems, limiting our daily activities and reducing our quality of life.

In 2017, it was estimated that the prevalence of sarcopenia in 28 European countries would increase by 60-70%, by 2045, which would affect 13-23% of people over 65. Sarcopenia is a geriatric syndrome characterized by an abnormally severe loss of muscle mass (ie, greater than the "physiologically normal" loss accompanying aging). This strong loss is therefore responsible for a decrease in muscle strength and physical performance. The sarcopenia observed in the elderly is often due to multiple factors: hormonal, metabolic, nutritional and behavioral, such as sedentary lifestyle and physical inactivity. To these problems are added frailty, another common and multifactorial geriatric syndrome which reflects a physical condition deteriorated by the multiplication of problems and which is associated with a high risk of decline in health (involuntary weight loss, lack of energy, incontinence, anxiety and depression, etc.) and motor function (increased risk of falling, for example). Some of the causes of frailty are sarcopenia and osteoporosis, but this problem involves the deregulation of many other physiological systems.

Exercise is proving to be a very effective strategy for treating sarcopenia and frailty, especially resistance training. Thanks to its ability to stimulate muscle mass for hypertrophy and strength, it could help prevent, slow down or even decrease the causes and consequences that these syndromes cause through the maintenance and building of muscle mass. But what is really the impact of resistance training on seniors diagnosed with these syndromes?

The Study

To answer these questions, a team of European researchers studied the impact of a resistance training program on strength, motor function and body composition in seniors aged from 62 to 98 years old, diagnosed with pre-sarcopenia, sarcopenia, pre-frailty or frailty. To do this, the authors carried out a meta-analysis by combining 25 randomized and controlled studies bringing together a total of 2267 participants, including 1484 women. The average duration of the training program was 23 weeks (10-48 weeks) and the training frequency was generally 2-3 sessions per week. All of the studies were randomized and controlled and the participants did not have any co-morbid conditions such as diabetes, cancer, dementia, depression, for example.

Results & Analyzes

The main results of this meta-analysis show that strength training is a very beneficial strategy for improving muscle strength, motor function and body composition in seniors diagnosed with (pre) sarcopenia and/or (pre) frailty, whatever their age. Strength is considered to be the primary determinant of sarcopenia and results show that training improves grip test results and lower limb strength. These results are also reflected in those observed for the evaluation of motor functions. Thus, agility, balance, gait speed and functional strength also significantly improved through training. And finally, the groups that followed the training protocol significantly lost fat and gained muscle mass.

It should be noted that an analysis focusing only on people diagnosed with pre-sarcopenia and pre-frailty showed that all of these people had improved their strength, motor function and body composition, but no significant difference was found. was present with the control group.

Practical Applications

The increase in muscle strength and motor functions thanks to weight training in elderly people (62-98 years) suffering from sarcopenia and / or frailty shows that it is never too late to take things in hand and improve his state of health.

Exercise in general, and resistance training in particular, are useful and relevant ways to tackle the causes of sarcopenia and frailty. The improvements obtained through this type of training can potentially reduce the dependency situations of the elderly, and therefore increase their quality of life. Adding to this, improvement in body composition, the chances of developing a metabolic problem decrease.

Obviously, prevention remains the best weapon. And it must start from our birth: regular and sufficiently intense physical activity combining resistance and cardiovascular training, and a healthy, balanced diet adapted to energy needs. Sedentary lifestyle, physical inactivity and malnutrition do more damage than physiological aging alone.


  1. Talar K, Hernandez-Belmonte A, Vetrovsky T, Steffl M, Kalamacka E and Courel-Ibanez J. Benefits of resistance training in early and late stages of frailty and sarcopenia: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled studies. J Clin Med 10, 1630, 2021.

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