Resistance training helps elderly patients with Peripheral Artery Disease (Imagine what it can do for you!)

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Peripheral arterial disease is amongst the leading cause of cardiovascular disease, which is responsible for about 42% of deaths in Australia. This is characterized by a narrowing (stenosis) or blockage (occlusion) of the arteries which forces blood pressure up and the hearts capacity is severely taxed. It is not a pleasant situation to be in since the bloods work is severely hampered as it struggles to reach some parts of the body. A diet with fresh fruit and vegetables and low in saturated fat is usually prescribed followed by cardio/aerobic exercise such as walking. Resistance training is not the therapy of choice for many physicians. This study set out to look for the effects of resistance training in patients with this disease, on muscle characteristics and responses. The patients (mean age of around 70) were split up into two groups; one that did nothing (commonly called the control group) while the other performed 3 times per week resistance training using 2 sets of various exercises for 8-15 weeks. After the 24 week training program, muscle samples were taken and compared to before the exercise program.

It was seen that the resistance trained group significantly decreased the myosin heavy chain type 2B fibers while the proportion of 2B/AB fibers also decreased. Type 2B fibers are commonly known as the couch potato muscle fiber as they are abundant in inactive individuals and are easily fatigable. However, the training group significantly increased both their type 1 and 2 muscle fiber as well as significant increases in 10 Rep maximum strength. Capillary density was also significantly improved in the training group, meaning that they are now better able to supply oxygen and nutrients to the peripheral muscles. Not only that, improved pain-free walking distances and an improved quality of life was seen. This study shows that positive muscle changes do happen, even in patients with peripheral artery disease, when performing resistance training. Perhaps now doctors will begin putting greater emphasis on resistance training as part of a holistic health fitness program.

resistance training
REFERENCE: J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2001 Jul;56(7):B302-10.
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