Wooden figure fallen on the ground

One Rep Max Living

If you've been a patient in my office, you know that I make rehabilitative exercise a part of every treatment plan for every patient. Exercise is the number one word that reappears over and over again in the research for improving musculoskeletal disorders. As someone who practices exclusively evidenced-based treatment, that means I'd be doing you a disservice if I didn't include it. That is, if the goal is to reduce pain and improve functional movement as quickly as possible.

With that being said, I have certain patients who look at me like I asked them to do a double back flip when I ask them to get down on the ground. "I'd never be able to get up again," they exclaim. This person is suffering from "one rep max living." What is one rep max living, you ask? It's defined as "When demands of life are near or exceeding one's capacity." The regularly activities of their daily life leaves them exhausted.

The term comes from weightlifting, where one-repetition maximum (one-rep max or 1RM) is the maximum amount of weight that a person can possibly lift for one repetition. One rep max living is a dangerous reality for people of all ages, but is particularly prevalent in our older adult patients. My job is to identify and eliminate one rep max living where ever I can find it.

Does the thought of getting up and down from the floor give you anxiety because you fear you can't do it? Good, because it should. This is a critical skill that every person at any age should be able to do. If you can't, start practicing today. Exercise prepares the body to safely, and effectively, perform activities of daily living. For example, lifting a grandchild, a bag of dog food, or a bucket of water may cause injury if you aren’t used to lifting 40 pounds. We know that recovery time increases significantly with advanced age, so that leaves two options: 1) don’t lift your grandchild; or 2) prepare your body to manage the weight and avoid injury.

If your one rep max is 20 pounds and your groceries weigh 30 pounds, now simply bringing your groceries into the house becomes exhausting and unsafe. Are you never going to carry groceries again, or are you going to strengthen your body so that you can safely do your daily activities? One day you are going to end up on the ground, with or without your consent. A trip, a fall, and we are face down on the pavement. Have you been practicing getting up and down from the floor? Because today's your pop quiz. Are you ready?

I also don't want you to think I am overstating the dangers here or being intentionally dramatic. Studies show that for people over the age of 65, breaking a hip means you've got a 50% chance of surviving to the next year. That survival rate is still only 67% for people over the age of 50. Isn't that crazy?! Let me put that in other words: you've got a 1 in 3 chance of surviving a hip fracture if you're 50 years old. A coin flip if you're over 65. Mindblowing.

Falls are the leading cause of accidental death for people over 65 years of age. What are the risk factors that contribute to this besides age? Cognitive impairment: such as dementia or Alzheimer's. Another factor is osteoporosis or osteopenia, which is a weakening of the bone density. Next is frailty, which is simply muscle weakening and diminished muscle mass. Lastly, coordination, or ability to smoothly move the body. And guess what helps improve every single one of those factors? You guessed it, exercise.

Old man bench pressing

Okay, okay, I get it, exercise. The next question is, what exercises can help me avoid this catastrophic fate? The answer is strength training. Resistance training, or strength training is designed to improve strength and endurance. This type of training is often associated with the use of weights but can also be achieved using simple body weight exercises too. Developing an exercise program with the intention to improve your one rep max will ensure you are strong enough to manage the weight of everyday tasks.

If you identify with any of the limitations in this article, it's time for your to stop living a one rep max life. We can help guide you into a rehabilitative exercise program safely and effectively to improve your strength, function, and ability to life your life. Don't let fear limit your physical limitations. People are living longer than ever these days. Do you want to spend your last years on the sidelines? If  you're ready to get started, contact us today.

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