Journal of Applied Physiology


Resting metabolic rate (RMR) decreases with age, largely because of an age-related decline in fat-free mass (FFM). We hypothesized that a strength-training program capable of eliciting increases in FFM would also increase RMR in older individuals. To test this hypothesis, RMR, body composition, and plasma concentrations of certain hormones known to affect RMR were measured before and after a 16-wk heavy-resistance strength-training program in 13 healthy men 50–65 yr of age. Average strength levels, assessed by the three-repetition maximum test, increased 40% with training (P < 0.001). Body weight did not change, but body fat decreased (25.6 +/- 1.5 vs. 23.7 +/- 1.7%; P < 0.001) and FFM increased (60.6 +/- 2.2 vs. 62.2 +/- 2.1 kg; P < 0.01). RMR, measured by indirect calorimetry, increased 7.7% with strength training (6,449 +/- 217 vs. 6,998 +/- 226 kJ/24 h; P < 0.01). This increase remained significant even when RMR was expressed per kilogram of FFM. Strength training increased arterialized plasma norepinephrine levels 36% (1.1 +/- 0.1 vs. 1.5 +/- 0.1 nmol/l; P < 0.01) but did not change fasting glucose, insulin, or thyroid hormone levels. These results indicate that a heavy-resistance strength-training program increases RMR in healthy older men, perhaps by increasing FFM and sympathetic nervous system activity.