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The effect of resistance training programs on lean body mass in postmenopausal and elderly women: a meta-analysis of observational studies

Ewan Thomas  1 , Ambra Gentile  2 , Nemanja Lakicevic  2 , Tatiana Moro  3 , Marianna Bellafiore  1 , et al.

Aging Clin Exp Res. 2021 Apr 20.doi: 10.1007/s40520-021-01853-8. Online ahead of print.

Aging and menopause are associated with morphological and functional changes which may lead to loss of muscle mass and therefore quality of life. Resistance training (RT) is an effective training mode to increase muscle mass. We reviewed the existing literature to identify studies implementing RT protocols and evaluating muscle hypertrophy exclusively in healthy, postmenopausal and elderly women. Participants’ age range was comprised between 50 and 80 years. The primary outcome observed was muscle hypertrophy. Fat mass was also evaluated, if available. PubMed and Web of Science were the screened database, and original articles written in English and published from 2000 up to 2020 were included. 26 articles were considered eligible and included. Quality assessment revealed a «moderate quality» of the included studies, however the majority of studies was able to reach level 4 of evidence and on overall grade of recommendation C. In total, data from 745 female participants subjected to different forms of resistance training were considered. Heterogeneity across studies was present regarding study design, intervention length (mean 16 weeks), training frequency (3 d/w), no. of exercises (n = 7.4) and participants’ age (65.8 ± 4.9 years). Small-to-moderate significant increases (k = 43; SMD = 0.44; 95% CI 0.28; 0.60; p < 0.0001) of lean body mass were observed in post-menopausal and elderly women, regardless of age, intervention period, weekly training frequency and no. of exercises. No effects were noted for fat mass (k = 17; SMD = 0.27; 95% CI – 0.02; 0.55; p = 0.07). Studies need to concentrate on providing information regarding training parameters to more effectively counteract the effects of aging and menopause on skeletal muscle mass.