Older adults obtain many benefits from resistance-training which positively effect everyday functional performance and help in the retention of independent, community based living. AUT University’s never2old exercise programme which commenced in 2002, uses the graded prescription of resistance based exercise as its primary exercise focus along with balance, flexibility, gait and cardiovascular activities. But how should we as practitioners progress the exercise prescription over time to maximize improvements in functional performance, maintain adherence and motivation and minimize the chance of training-related injuries? One approach involves the use of a structured exercise progression model.
The never2old exercise programme is an innovative exercise program based on such a model, involving 5 progressive levels (bronze, silver, gold, platinum and palladium). Bronze is the preparatory phase which safely introduces de-conditioned, often sedentary older adults to light, controlled resistance exercise. It consists of bilateral, predominantly seated/supported machine-based exercises. Silver introduces light free-weight exercises, encouraging greater movement control, although most exercises are still seated/supported bilateral movements. Gold involves a greater usage of standing and/or unilateral free-weight exercises that begin to challenge the balance and postural stability of the individual. Platinum focuses on exercises from slightly unstable bases of support and palladium moves the participant into an advanced individualized training approach. Participants can progress to the next level when they consistently demonstrate good technique and show improvement in muscular strength/endurance, balance and general movement control at their current exercise level.
Results from the Senior Fitness Test (Rikli & Jones, 2001) assessments can also be factored in to the decision to move an individual on to the next level of the program. Preliminary results suggest that such a model has many advantages for the participants. The preparatory stages build confidence and some overall anaerobic and aerobic conditioning (muscular strength, power and endurance). While the latter stages further develop balance, anaerobic and aerobic conditioning, they focus more on improving stability and performance in functional tasks such as walking up and down stairs, lifting, reaching and sit-to-stand. By improving their stability and performance in such functional tasks, these older individuals are also likely to reduce their risk of falls (Liu-Ambrose et al., 2004). Although the exercise prescription focuses primarily on resistance training, the never2old exercise programme adopts a broader holistic approach to the fitness, health and well-being of older adults. Regular educational seminars, GOLD (Growing Older Living Dangerously) outdoor challenges, special events and social support structures all contribute to making never2old one of New Zealand’s most successful older adult activity programs. www.never2old.net.nz.
Liu-Ambrose, T., Khan, K. M., Eng, J. J., Janssen, P. A., Lord, S. R., & McKay, H. A. (2004). Resistance and agility training reduce fall risk in women aged 75 to 85 with low bone mass: a 6-month randomized, controlled trial. J Am Geriatr Soc, 52(5), 657-665.
Rikli, R. E., & Jones, C. J. (2001). Senior Fitness Test Manual. Champaign, IL Human Kinetics.