New research helps elderly pack on the muscle

New Zealand is about to be flooded with thousands of fit elderly people.

They're here for the World Masters Games, and many of them already know what researchers have discovered about the effectiveness of strength training in older athletes.

"It's magic, absolutely magic. My main sport is swimming and I feel much better and much more confident and able to hack it with some of the fastest people," one athlete says.

The research has found progressive strength training, and specifically lowering weights, is the best and most useful way for those older than 60 to train.

"I wasn't too keen to lift next to them because they were going to put us to shame, so if it's progressed and the technique is good, they can get really strong," says Dr Nigel Harris, AUT exercise science's senior lecturer.

"[They are] much stronger than the average younger person, there's no doubt about that."

The training is effective because the older adults lower the heavy weights, which is far easier than raising them, but still results in substantial strength gains. It also contributes to the general ability to complete everyday tasks.

"Getting up off ground, getting up and down stairs, carrying groceries - all were improved with improved strength, so everything became easier," participant Ashley Gluchowski says.

Those behind the research are talking to gyms and fitness providers, advising on the best ways to train elderly.

Part of the message they're delivering is that you're never too old to pack on a little more muscle.