Whilst a large amount of data is now available, both in the literature and our clinical practice, reflecting the effectiveness of well designed and effectively administered weight lifting exercise programs, it is rarely used in common geriatric practice.
We have now been using exercise as a treatment, collected clinical data and participated in a number of NH&MRC clinical trials for over fifteen years. In this time we have successfully treated over 5000 people with a range of chronic diseases including (but not limited to): Frailty, Osteoporosis, Hip Fracture, Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Dementia, Parkinson's Disease, Brain Injury, Diabetes, Stroke, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Cancer, Heart Failure and Steroid Dependency.
Using this treatment model under Associate Professor Singh's care, we have measured a number of objective (strength and performance based tests) and subjective (self administered questionnaires reflecting a variety of aspects of daily life) factors, which can be positively affected with exercise. Some of the key results of this work are presented below.
Our data reflects over 140,000 exercise training hours and over 19,000 exercise testing sessions in more than 5000 patients.
It is important to consider the following results with the knowledge that strength declines with age, at a rate of 10% per decade after the age of 40 as reflected in the graph below.
In patients training over a three year period, an average strength gain of 40% was achieved in 6 months and continued to increase over the three year period.
Changes in Balance
Over a 12 month period, our patinets achieved a 50% improvement in the speed in which they completed a walking balance task (Tandem walk test). This task could also be completed with greater accuracy, that is, with fewer errors.
The maximal and habitual walking speed of patients also improved between 10 and 15%.
We know GAIT SPEED IS A MARKER for all sorts of DISABILITY including where we live such as Nursing Home, Hostel or Community Dwelling.
Chair Rise time
Ability to rise form a chair improved by 25-30% reflecting the positive change in proximal strength.
6 minute walk distance
Over a 12 month period, there was a 12-15 % increase in the distance that could be walked in a 6minute period (6 Minute walk test).
It is of note that this was achieved by weight lifting alone and is similar to the changes expected from an aerobic program in cardiac rehabilitation.
There was a 30% improvement in self rated difficulty in doing daily tasks. That is, patients felt that they were more able to complete daily tasks with greater independence.
Quality of life
Self rating of Mental Health and Depression improved significantly.
Despite being a weight lifting program, patients' pain decreased on average by 90% over 12 months.
Vitality increased from below an age matched normal population to 10-20% above.
In a broad selection of older patients, suffering with diseases such as Diabetes, Osteoporosis, Frailty, Depression, Chronic Degenerative Neurological Disease, Heart Disease, Lung Disease and Joint Disease, we have demonstrated:
30-40% improvements in strength
40-50% improvements in balance
30% in improvement disability
15% improvement in mobility
30% improvement in transferring
20-30 % improvement in 8 different domains of Quality of Life.