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April 13 2009 12:00 AM

Weight training did not build muscle mass in octogenarian women but still helped them lift more weight than before, a small study conducted by Ball State University in Indiana finds.

The six women in their 80s worked out three times a week for three months on a machine designed to strengthen the thigh's quadriceps muscle. MRIs done before and after the program showed no increase in thigh muscle mass, and muscle biopsies showed no changes at the cellular level, even though the women could lift 26 percent more weight at the end of the program than at the start.

The researchers believe the increase in the amount of weight the women could lift came from the boost training gives to the nervous system as it activates and synchronizes muscles.

The researchers had similar results in a previous study with octogenarian men, although yet another study with 70-year-old women doing resistance training resulted in the participants increasing muscle mass by 5 percent.

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