Strength Training in the Older Adult
Putting an end to “1 Rep Max Living”
According to a recent article from, The Lancet, a prestigious medical journal, “Taking into consideration current evidence about the benefits of exercise for older adults, it is unethical not to prescribe physical exercise for such individuals."
We all know by now that diet and exercise are key and lead to nearly every positive outcome we could dream up. But how important is it as we age? How many older adult friends, family, peers or acquaintances do you know that are no longer able to live in their home safely? The story usually goes something like this...
‘He/she was active in their younger years, got busy in their middle aged life, slowed down after retirement and after 15 years are not safe alone in their own home due to being a fall risk with a lack of safety awareness to continue living independently.
What if we could change that? Is it possible?
The number one reason (cognitively intact) adults are no longer able to stay independent and safe in the home? WEAKNESS!
They no longer have the strength to get up off the toilet. (one of the most common 911 calls)
They no longer have the strength to get up off the floor if they do fall.
They require a walker or wheelchair for mobility.
They cannot safely tolerate going up and down stairs for activities of daily living (laundry, etc).
They cannot safely shop, do laundry, clean, so on and so forth.
We call this 1 rep max living! The normal day to day activities (ADLs) are demanding maximal effort instead of being simple, safe and light activity. For example, a healthy adult could hopefully squat 100lbs, pick up and carry a few grocery bags, and lunge their body weight 15x. On the contrary, someone who is max rep living is doing the basics at their maximum intensity! How exhausting and unsafe must that be?
Most shockingly, a large majority of people think this is a normal, inevitable part of life!
Strength and balance training in older adults is beyond crucial to not only maintain an independent lifestyle, but how about actually enjoying the golden years traveling, keeping up with the grandkids, and gardening into your 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s! THRIVING, not just surviving.
With that being said,
If you answered no to any of this three part assessment, it is CRITICAL you start working on your balance, strength and mobility!
The next big question … where do I, or my loved ones start?
Constantly varied functional movements performed at relative high intensities.
Let’s ignore that this is the definition of CrossFit (another article for another time :)
Breaking this down:
Constantly varied : there needs to be a variety of movements within the program
Functional movements: squat, deadlift, lunge, carry, push, pull, press. These 6 things represent the majority of movements in daily life. (picking up groceries, getting off of low seats, etc)
Relative high intensities: This is individualized to the person, but either way, the person must be working at a load and intensity that is challenging
This can be accomplished at home, at a gym, or if safety is an issue or more guidance is desired, your favorite physical therapy clinic would be happy to work with you.
Cue the Older Adult Mobility Improvement Program
We developed a program within our clinic to fit this exact need. Our program starts with assessing baseline function with 4 standardized tests to measure strength, balance and fall risk for each individual. Our expert therapists go through the program with the patient and progress strength, balance and mobility while working toward the specific goals set by the patient and therapist. An individualized home program and specific instruction allows for progress to be made each and every day and progress will be reassessed as you move forward with this program.
Bottom line = it’s never too late. You can do something about the future to ensure you’re thriving, not just surviving and we can help guide you along in this journey!
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