Many elderly women in industrially developed countries are at, or near to, functionally important strength related thresholds and so have either lost, or are in danger of losing, the ability to perform some important everyday tasks. The increased rate of healthcare expenditure due to loss of physical function is a major economic issue. Even though women make up most of the senior population, little current research on the impact of physical activity on strength and function in elderly people has included women. Elderly women typically have more barriers to participation in physical activity than do other groups and because of decreased participation, may possibly experience higher disability rates. Physical activity in old age may delay the progression of osteoporosis and is of paramount importance for maintaining the functional abilities needed to carry out daily tasks. Current research on exercise and the elderly population suggests that strength training may be the exercise mode of choice for maintenance of strength, physical function, bone integrity, and psychosocial health. This review summarises recent research on the impact of strength training on the fitness and health of elderly women and highlights considerations and potential barriers to physical activity that must be taken into account when planning exercise programmes for them.
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