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.

– SimonEG

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:

More evidence:
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…

Stop looking for excuses and start looking for solutions.

Associations of Muscle Mass and Strength with All-Cause Mortality among US Older Adults

Weightlifting is good for your heart and it doesn’t take much

Some research indicates strength training may be more effective for heart health and overall health than cardio, especially for older people.

Even the Cooper Clinic founded by Dr. Ken Cooper, the man that coined the word aerobics, agrees:

Associations of Resistance Exercise with Cardiovascular Disease Morbidity and Mortality

A study published in October in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise provides evidence for the first time that even a little weight training might reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke. People appear to gain this benefit whether or not they also engage in frequent aerobic exercise.

The study drew from an invaluable cache of health data gathered at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, where thousands of men and women have been undergoing annual checkups, which include filling out detailed questionnaires about their exercise habits and medical history. More than 12,500 records were anonymized for men and women, most of them middle-aged, who had visited the clinic at least twice between 1987 and 2006. The subjects were categorized according to their reported resistance exercise routines, ranging from those who never lifted to those who completed one, two, three or more weekly sessions (or whether they lifted for more or less than an hour each week). Another category was aerobic exercise and whether subjects met the standard recommendation of 150 minutes per week of brisk workouts. This exercise data was then crosschecked against heart attacks, strokes and deaths during the 11 years or so after each participant’s last clinic visit.

The findings were dramatic: The risk of experiencing these events was roughly 50 percent lower for those who lifted weights occasionally, compared with those who never did — even when they were not doing the recommended endurance exercise. People who lifted twice a week, for about an hour or so in total, had the greatest declines in risk. (Interestingly, the subjects who reported weight training four or more times per week did not show any significant health benefits compared with those who never lifted, although the researchers believe this finding is probably a statistical anomaly.)

“The good news,” says Duck-chul Lee, an associate professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University and co-author of the study, “is that we found substantial heart benefits associated with a very small amount of resistance exercise.” As an associational study, the results show only that people who occasionally lift weights happen to have healthier hearts — not that resistance training directly reduces heart-related health risks. The data, though, does reveal associations between weight lifting and a lower body mass index, Lee says, which might be connected to fewer heart problems. He and his colleagues do not know the specifics of what exercises people were doing — lat pull-downs? dead lifts? squats? — or how many repetitions they did or at what level of resistance. Lee says he is in the early stages of a major study to examine some of those factors. But he doesn’t suggest waiting for those results.