Professor completes research on benefits of resistance training

A study completed by a professor in kinesiology department showed resistance training possibly provided more benefits than aerobics or mild exercise, especially in the elderly and obese.

Melody Phillips, who began a study on the connection between exercise, immunology and metabolic disease in 2006, worked with women between the ages of 60 and 70 who were classified as obese.

“Resistance training provides many benefits – especially to the elderly – that aerobics doesn’t, so it’s an important part of an exercise program,” Phillips said. “It shouldn’t be left out if it can be incorporated.”

Phillips said the diseases associated with obesity, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, are commonly the result of age and inactivity. Phillips said she researched if resistance training can prevent or slow these conditions and diseases.

The ideas and preparation for the study began in 2006 and the actual data collection started in 2007. Phillips said she had worked on a previous project that looked at resistance training in elderly women who had never weight trained. She said she wanted to continue that research with another group of high-risk women.

Phillips said she decided the new group of subjects had to be obese and not be taking hormone replacement therapy. Obesity was determined by looking at the body mass index, or BMI.

“The ladies had to have a BMI of between 30 and 40,” Phillips said. “That would be mild to moderate obesity.”

The subjects were found through TCU Announce, fliers and an advertisement in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Study participant Ruth Karbach, who found out about the study through the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, said she enjoyed the study and made several close friends.

“I’m generally health-oriented and it just sounded like a fascinating study,” Karbach said. “Everybody made progress, but we made some fairly incredible gains in the amount of time that we had.”

The study was conducted over 12 weeks in 2007, Phillips said. The women came in to the University Recreation Center three times per week and performed a fairly rigorous full-body workout, she said.

The routine consisted of a five to ten minute warm-up on the bikes or treadmill. The warm-up was followed by three sets of 10 different exercises in the weight room, such as the bench press and shoulder press.

Phillips said 23 women completed the study and of those, 11 were social controls. The women in the social control group benefited from social contact with others, but did not participate in the exercises.

The education group acted as a social control, because older women have less interaction with others, Phillips said. This group came in twice a week to listen to a speaker or participate in activities such as chess.

“The positive psychological effects of meeting with a group three times a week can improve health in different forms, so it’s important for a lot of longitudinal studies to control for that,” Phillips said.

The women who acted as the social control were given a 12-week pass to the gym after the study was over. The women who acted as the exercise subjects benefitted both through health benefits and personal health knowledge that was delivered through tests such as an oral glucose tolerance test.

Oral glucose tolerance tests measured insulin and glucose response, which checked risk factors for diabetes.

Karbach said those who worked with the subjects made a big difference in the results.

“We set goals, and the minute we reached one level, they immediately set a new goal for us,” Karbach said.

Phillips said that after the testing ended, several of the women continued their workout regimens.

Though the data has been collected, Phillips said she still needs to analyze the results. Phillips said she thinks that even one workout session could have made a difference, noting that “exercise will either slow down or reverse a lot of conditions that we associate with aging.”

Karbach, who continued her training after the study, said she would do it again if given the chance.