Strength training isn't gaining muscle in the U.S. as quickly as health experts had hoped.
A new CDC study shows despite recommendations that adults engage in strength training two or more times a week, only 20 percent of American adults regularly engage in strength training exercises, such as using weights or resistance bands to improve muscle strength.
Although the number of adults who engage in strength training two or more times per week increased slightly from 17.7 percent in 1998 to 19.6 percent in 2004, researchers say the increase in strength training was significant only among women and not among men.
In addition, the greatest yearly increase in strength training was from 2000 to 2001 — and no further progress has been made since.
Studies have shown that adults who regularly engage in strength training are less likely to experience loss of muscle mass, functional decline and fall-related injuries than those who don't.
Due to those health benefits, federal officials have made a national health objective for 2010 to increase the proportion of adults who strength train to 30 percent.
Few Strength Train
The study, published in this week's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, was based on annual national surveys of more than 30,000 adults in the United States.
Overall, the results showed the percentage of men who regularly used strength training did not significantly increase from 1998 to 2004 and stayed at about 21 percent. Meanwhile, the number of women who used strength training increased from 14 percent to 17.5 percent during the same time period.
The prevalence of strength training was lowest among adults 65 and over.
Despite the increases in strength training found among women, the percentage of those who met the recommended levels of strength training was higher among men than women (21.9 percent vs. 17.5 percent).
But researchers say it's never too late to start. Research shows inactive older adults who start strength training achieve rapid gains within a few months.
SOURCES: CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, July 21, 2006; Vol. 55: pp. 769-772. News release, CDC.
By Jennifer Warner
Reviewed by Louise Chang, M.D.
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