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Informations sur les Sciences de l'Entraînement Sportif

Seniors, Physical Inactivity and Kettlebell

by A. Manolova | 14 June 2022

Seniors, Physical Inactivity, Kettlebell, health, sport, resistance, training, activity, sedentary behaviour

Thanks to medical and technological advances, human life expectancy has never been higher. But the increase in longevity has gone hand in hand 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 diminishing our quality of life.

Read also : Sedentary time, physical activity & cardiovascular health after 70 years

In 2017, it was estimated that the prevalence of sarcopenia in 28 European countries would increase by 60-70% by 2045, resulting in affecting 13-23% of people over 65 years old. Sarcopenia is a geriatric syndrome characterized by an abnormally severe loss of muscle mass (i.e., greater than the "physiologically normal" loss accompanying aging). This severe loss is therefore responsible for a decrease in muscle strength and physical performance. Sarcopenia observed in the elderly is often due to multiple factors: hormonal, metabolic, nutritional, and behavioral, such as sedentary lifestyle and physical inactivity.

Read also : Frailty and sarcopenia: Benefits of resistance training

Physical inactivity implies that a person does not reach the goals set by the World Health Organization (WHO) for minimum recommended physical activity. For health benefits, it is recommended to spend at least 150 minutes per week doing moderate intensity activities (between 3 and 6 METs) or at least 75 minutes of high intensity (above 6 METs). In addition, you should do at least 2 muscle strengthening sessions per week.

Physical exercise, and strength training in particular, is an effective strategy for stimulating muscle hypertrophy and strength. It helps prevent, slow down and even reduce the causes and consequences of sarcopenia. Strength training can be practiced anywhere, as long as you have the necessary equipment. The kettlebell is one of the tools for muscle strengthening that has (re)become very trendy since the 2000s thanks to Pavel Tsatsouline and in the 2010s with CrossFit. But the kettlebell is especially the instrument of Girevoy Sport, an activity that is completely dedicated to it.

The kettlebell is now a recognized sports tool used for various purposes ranging from physical performance research to rehabilitation, through cardiovascular work. Numerous scientific publications have shown interest in this tool and have demonstrated its benefits through concrete measurements. However, the use of the kettlebell is often based on explosive exercises that require a good technical mastery. Thus, the question arises as to whether the kettlebell could be adapted to senior citizens who are physically inactive to improve their health ?

The Study

To try to answer this question, a team of Australian researchers tested the impact of a kettlebell training program ("Hardstyle") on physically inactive seniors, aged from 59 to 79 years old. The study lasted about 6 months. During the first 12 weeks, there was no change in the participants' lifestyle. During the last 12 weeks, the participants followed a kettlebell training program with 3 weekly supervised sessions of 45 minutes each and 2 sessions at home. The exercises performed during each session were the kettlebell swing, kettlebell clean, military press, goblet squat, and Turkish Get-Up, with an intensity of 5-7/10 on the Borg scale. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a portion of the workouts were conducted at home.

During the 29-weeks protocol, participants were assessed 5 times. Grip strength was the primary endpoint because this variable is associated with cardiovascular health status and mortality risk. In addition to this test, participants were assessed for cardiovascular endurance, maximal isometric strength in the knee and hip extensors, mobility, body composition, and quality of life.

Thirty-two people (16 women and 16 men) were recruited to participate at the start of the study. Three dropped out during the first 12 weeks and 5 dropped out (for various problems, not necessarily related to the training protocol) during the last 12 weeks.

Results & Analyzes

The main results show that grip strength in physically inactive seniors significantly increased by an average of 6.3-7.5 kg for the left and right hands, respectively, following 12 weeks of supervised kettlebell training ("Hardstyle"). Grip strength decreases with age and is a predictive measure of disability, morbidity and mortality. Its improvement is therefore a reflection of benefits to the health and general fitness of the participants.

Significant improvements also occurred in cardiovascular fitness, lean body mass, lower extremity strength and endurance, and functional mobility skills. Adherence to the training program was very good with an attendance rate of 91.5% and only 4 people had minor health problems (1 lower back pain, 1 shoulder pain and 2 intercostal pain) which, for the most part, resolved on their own by the end of the training cycle.

Practical Applications

The main benefit of this study is to demonstrate that a kettlebell training program, performed at a moderate-high intensity, is suitable for a public of physically inactive seniors with certain co-morbid conditions (obesity, diabetes, hypertension, etc.), and allows them to improve their health status without risk (under professional supervision of course).

The participants in this study developed the physical skills necessary to also train independently at home. They were able to improve their grip strength, cardiovascular skills, muscle strength, body composition and mobility.


  1. Meigh NJ, Keogh JWL, Schram B, Hing W and Rathbone EN. Effects of supervised high-intensity hardstyle kettlebell training on grip strength and health-related physical fitness in insufficiently active older adults: the BELL pragmatic controlled trial. BMC Geriatrics 22 : 354, 2022.

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