Strength training with free weights is not only appropriate for older adults, it can help prevent the onset of age-related frailty in cases of prolonged inactivity.

That’s according to researchers with University of British Columbia who evaluated pre-frail senior women engaged in a 12-week, free-weights exercise program.

Participants used the free weights to approximate activities such as lifting grocery bags (dead-lift) and sitting down and standing up (squats). The routines were performed three times a week and became progressively intense. When compared with peers in a control group, seniors in the exercise program improved muscle performance and became less frail — without incurring injury, said study lead Jenn Jakobi, Ph.D.

“Traditionally, older adults opt for low-intensity and low-resistance exercise because they believe that heavy free-weight exercise isn’t right for them. Our findings show the opposite,” she said.

Frailty is dynamic and can be reversed by maintaining and building muscle strength, Jakobi concluded.

The study was published in The Journal of Frailty and Aging.