An ounce of prevention: intensive resistance training to optimize health in pre-frail older adults

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Our population is aging, and while many older Canadians live healthy and active lifestyles, others begin to move slower, become weaker and less active over time. These are signs of frailty, which can lead to loss of independence, higher risk for falls and fractures, or need for institutionalized care or hospitalization. It is important to establish strategies to prevent frailty in older adults, and one such strategy is to participate in regular exercise. In particular, resistance training can improve muscle strength and bone strength, walking ability and balance, which contribute to better health and function.

We aimed to test the safety and feasibility of a novel, higher-intensity resistance training program in pre-frail older adults, and to compare its effects on walking ability, muscle and bone health, quality of life and health care utilization to traditional lower-intensity resistance training that is typically used with older adults.

Ada Tang, PT, PhD is a Physical Therapist and Assistant Professor in the School of Rehabilitation Science at McMaster University. She was a Clinician-Scientist for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario. Her research focuses on the impact of exercise on health and function in people with stroke, older adults, and other clinical conditions, with an aim to establish effective strategies for primary and secondary prevention.

Christina Nowak, MScPT, CSCS, PhD (c) finished her Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience from the University of Toronto in 2007. She then continued into her Masters of Physiotherapy at McMaster University, graduating in 2013. After graduation, she gained experience working in both the public and private sectors in outpatient orthopedics. She is a believer in the strength of exercise for rehabilitation, especially with older adults. This passion led her to begin her PhD in 2015 in the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster University under the supervision of Dr. Ada Tang. Her doctoral studies look at the utilization of strength training principles for persons with pre-frailty and prevention of transitions in frailty status. She is now the owner of a physiotherapy-gym hybrid, STAVE OFF, that aims to put some of these research programs into clinical practice.