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Dr Jamie Tallent
University of Essex
International Fellowship

Corticospinal responses to different modes of resistance training in the elderly

Working with colleagues in Australia, Jamie Tallent aims to provide a targeted and effective resistance training strategy for older adults

Black and white image of older man holding a dumbbell at a gym.
Perfect Wave / Shutterstock.com

Over a third of NHS spending in the UK goes towards older adults, those over the age of 65. By the year 2050 one in six people will fall into this group, aged 65 or over; therefore strategies to maximise physical health – whilst minimising healthcare costs – for this population is a vital area of research.

In the absence of disease, reductions in physical attributes, such as strength, decrease the quality of life and independence of older adults. Physical activity enables the maintenance of health-related quality of life during aging. Resistance training (a form of physical activity) is a simple cost-effective intervention that can be used to prevent or delay the loss of muscular health in aging adults. Further, it is believed that resistance training elicits effective countermeasures in elderly individuals – even at an old age – by eliciting adaptation within the human brain, though there is limited research to support this notion. 

Resistance training works by providing an acute challenge to the body that stimulates a physiological response in the subsequent hours and days. Following exposure to resistance training in older adults, neurological adaptations occur resulting in increased muscular strength. The neurologically related strength changes are poorly understood in older adults, but acute responses are known to differ between older and younger adults. Understanding the neurological response of older adults to different types of strength training will help in the prescription of resistance training by practitioners, through better exercise and load selection. 

The assessment of these neurological adaptations will be carried out at the Exercise Neuroplasticity Research Laboratory at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. The aim of the this lab is to understand how the central nervous system responds to various interventions, particularly related to motor skill and strength training, using non-invasive transcranial magnetic stimulation. This fellowship will allow me to travel to Monash University, learn new techniques around non-invasive brain stimulation and also conduct research to help provide a greater understanding and more targeted and effective resistance training strategy for older adults. 

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