More proof why making effective strength training a priority is better than cardio, especially as you age. Conventional “wisdom” that cardio is the best (or only) has been proven incorrect numerous times. Dr. Ken Cooper had it wrong OK, if we’re polite we can say he was only partially correct. Even the man that coined the word “aerobics” admits his mistake now.
I’ve been working as a physiotherapist at an assisted living center for elderly people in Finland for the last year and a half. Being an intermediate barbell trainee myself, I frequently use this approach with my patients. The results are amazing but the method is often frowned upon by other medical personnel, which is naturally quite frustrating.
There is one example in particular that I would like to share with you.
Last year I started physiotherapy with a fragile 39kg 84 year old lady. Let’s call her Eve for convenience. She had been wheelchair bound since 2008 due to a mixture of medical conditions; Alzheimer’s, depression, severe arthritis and spinal stenosis to name a few. Eve needed assistance in many of her ADL-activities as well as her transfers between the bed, wheelchair, and the toilet seat due to poor strength and balance as well as loss of range of motion. I suppose anyone would be depressed from this kind of dependent life.
We started strength training and substituted the barbell lifts for movements Eve was able to do and with what was available in our facilities, such as leg press, back extension, and pull-downs. In our first actual strength training session Eve could not complete a whole set of five reps at 5kg on the leg press, but we kept at it. A week later she succeeded at three sets of five reps at 5kg. Fast forward eight weeks of linear progression and Eve made 3×5 at 40kg. At this point she also took her first independent steps with a rollator since 2008 and was able transfer from her bed to the wheelchair independently.
This is was a big moment for her. It is incredible to go from being totally dependent on other people to be able to go to the bathroom and take a dump all by yourself. Today, a year and a half later, Eve walks around independently with the aid of a rollator, her weight has gone up quite a bit and she feels stronger, more focused and alive than before. In anticipation for the upcoming training session Eve’s life has meaning once again.
I wanted to take a moment to thank Mark Rippetoe and all the other good people behind Starting Strength whose dedication and expertise made this possible. Since my Bachelor in Physiotherapy did certainly not give me the knowledge needed to teach people walk again.
Simon and others in Finland are not the only health professionals taking this approach. Here’s a report from Australia:
Brisbane osteoporosis sufferers are weight training to prevent bone fractures. Find out more about the world-first trial here:
Hint: Women over 60 are capable of performing heavy (for them) deadlifts, squats, presses, and chin ups. Your excuse is invalid.
As for other physical issues:
Strength Training at 90
The Benefits of Pumping Iron in Later Life
You haven’t got arthritis you might just be weak
Consultant rheumatologist Professor Philip Conaghan explains to Dr Mark Porter that if you struggle to screw the top off a jar, or use your arms to push yourself out of your chair, that’s a sure fire sign that your muscles are weak. But here’s what you can do to help…
Stopping looking for excuses and start looking for solutions.