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Initiating and maintaining resistance training in older adults: a social cognitive theory-based approach
  1. R A Winett1,
  2. D M Williams2,
  3. B M Davy1,3
  1. 1
    Centre for Research in Health Behavior, Virginia Tech, Virginia, USA
  2. 2
    Brown Medical School, USA
  3. 3
    Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise, Virginia Tech, Virginia, USA
  1. Professor R A Winett, Centre for Research in Health Behavior, Virginia Tech, 620 N. Main Street, 24061 Blacksburg, USA; rswinett{at}


Numerous research studies performed in “lab-gyms” with supervised training have demonstrated that simple, brief (20–30 min) resistance training protocols performed 2–3/week following the American College of Sports Medicine’s guidelines positively affect risk factors associated with heart disease, cancers, diabetes, sarcopenia and other disabilities. For more than a decade, resistance training has been recommended for adults, particularly older adults, as a prime preventive intervention, and increasing the prevalence of resistance training is an objective of Healthy People 2010. However, the prevalence rate for resistance training is only estimated at 10–15% for older adults, despite the leisure time of older adults and access to facilities in developed countries. The reasons that the prevalence rate remains low include public health policy not emphasising resistance training, misinformation, and the lack of theoretically driven approaches demonstrating effective transfer and maintenance of training to minimally supervised settings once initial, generally successful, supervised training is completed. Social cognitive theory (SCT) has been applied to physical activity and aerobic training with some success, but there are aspects of resistance training that are unique including its intensity, progression, precision, and time and place specificity. Social cognitive theory, particularly with a focus on self-regulation and response expectancy and affect within an ecological context, can be directly applied to these unique aspects of resistance training for long-term maintenance.

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  • Competing interests: The authors are primarily research faculty at their institutions and have no other outside financial interests that will directly benefit from publication of this article.