I have a 90 year old client with Crohn’s Disease and osteoporosis. She lives alone in her own house. My goal is to keep her mobile and healthy enough to live at home for the remainder of her days. I try to keep the workouts enjoyable and functional for her lifestyle needs. A typical program for her consists of walking 15 to 20 minutes, some basic functional training with light resistance (i.e., lifting the laundry detergent). We also do some stretching and ROM work. It's been two months since we started. Her posture is no better (kyphosis) energy levels waver (some good, some bad), but she seems to enjoy our twice a week workouts. What sort of results can I expect and in what timeframe? I would like to see her energy levels improve more than they have. Can she get more out of the workouts, or should I just be happy that she's still able to this stuff?
Personal training for elderly clients is very worthwhile, although results may come slower and in smaller increments. Even if you are just maintaining your client’s current strength and energy levels, you are helping her have a higher quality of life and delaying some of the health problems that will occur if she were not exercising. About one third of age-related decline in aerobic capacity can be reversed with aerobic training. It may take six months or longer for these results to show up in older clients. Keeping the workouts fun and challenging with appropriate functional exercises (like you are currently doing) should be the main focus. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, about three quarters of the older adult population does not exercise at sufficient levels, so your client is already doing better than most people her age.
Regular exercise for older adults has been proven to improve cardiovascular and psychological health as well as increase metabolism and reduce the negative effects of conditions such as osteoporosis and Crohn’s Disease. Specifically, exercise can decrease bone density loss in people with osteoporosis and also decrease the risk of hip and back fractures. For people with Crohn’s Disease, exercise can relieve stress, reduce depression and normalize bowel function.
It is normal for an elderly client to have varying energy levels, even with regular exercise. You can help your client by having exercise routines with varying exercises and intensities to match her energy level for that day. You can also still increase the workload of the exercises as appropriate to keep challenging your client and help her try to get stronger.
Although it may seem like you’re not making much progress at times, you should continue with the training sessions. The fact that she enjoys the workouts is helpful by itself, since it can be a social thing for her and help lift her mood. Her energy levels should improve in time.