I really must stop watching health themed TV programs…

The ABC recently aired a program regarding the science of slowing down the aging process. They reviewed a number of studies in a very professional and entertaining way. But therein lies the problem. Viewers will take the advice presented on these shows as reliable based on the explanation of the scientific studies being referenced

After all, if it’s a scientific study it must be accurate and factual, right?


The presenters reviewed and explained the results of a German University study which followed two groups of elderly people to determine which group gained more muscle mass (and therefore slowed the aging process). Group 1 participated in 3 vigorous dance classes each week for the duration of the 6 month study. Group 2 performed what was termed ‘typical gym exercise’. And here is where it all fell apart.

The ‘gym exercise’ group were only required to sit on a stationary bike and pedal at a steady and moderate pace for 30 minutes. Nothing more. Needless to say, the dance group achieved much better results with their muscle growth and strength.

Sadly, the presenters then make a very broad (and highly negligent) claim that elderly people looking to slow age related muscle wastage should take up dancing rather than doing ‘gym work’.

I’m not sure who decided that sitting on a stationary bike is a true representation of gym exercise, but I sincerely hope that person leaves the health industry very soon. No doubt many of this show’s viewers were quickly put off the idea of joining their local gym in fear of it being a waste of time.

Had the researchers decided to actually investigate the muscle preserving effects of proper gym exercise (i.e. sensible resistance training) with the second group, they would have undoubtedly seen as good a result as the dance group, and most likely even better.

There have been countless studies performed on the elderly to illustrate the benefits and dire importance of resistance training (weights) as a means for preventing and even reversing age related muscle wastage (scientifically known as Sarcopenia). But unfortunately this is a little known fact among the general population and especially the elderly. A misconception which is further perpetuated by poorly designed ‘scientific’ (I use that term loosely) studies and the TV shows that attempt to explain them to the general public.

Shame on you ABC, I expected better.