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Beverly Rehab Moves to Strength Training

February 1, 2001
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With corporate partner Nautilus, the company is exercising the frail elderly by Sandra Hoban, Assistant Managing Editor
Using specially designed Nautilus equipment, Beverly
Rehabilitation aims to give frail elderly a new lease on life
By Sandra Hoban,
Assistant Managing Editor
The frail elderly need not decline from cane to walker to wheel-chair. In fact, they can now, in many cases, reverse that order of dependency, as illustrated by a program called "Freedom Through Functionality," a Nautilus equipment-based exercise regimen derived from research by Wayne Westcott, PhD, and adopted recently by Beverly Rehabilitation. Dr. Westcott, research director for Nautilus Corporation and author of several books on senior fitness, conducted his research for Nautilus at John Knox Village in Orange City, Florida, focusing on 19 very frail elderly ranging in age from 80 to 90 years. Most of the participants were wheelchair-bound, while others had limited ambulation. The goal of strength/resistance training in these tests was to restore muscle strength, which research has shown can trigger other positive physical events: better gastrointestinal transit speed that aids digestion and reduces the risk of colon cancer; improved glucose utilization to benefit people with diabetes; and reduction in osteoarthritis pain. "There were two important objectives for this research," Dr. Westcott explains. "The primary goal was to improve posture to allow residents to straighten up to promote better breathing and swallowing, while a subsequent goal was to strengthen key muscle groups involved in ambulation. "Using five Nautilus machines twice a week, the John Knox residents performed one set of 8 to 12 repetitions per session. Each session took about 7-1/2 minutes, which totaled 15 minutes of actual strength training per week. "My role was to evaluate, assess and measure each participant's fitness in a variety of parameters, including muscular strength, flexibility and body composition," said Dr. Westcott. "The medical staff evaluated walking ability and functional independence and tracked the number of falls." After 14 weeks, the residents' leg strength improved by 80%. As Dr. Westcott points out, "Results are dramatic because these individuals were so far from their potential that their weak and atrophied muscles responded in functional improvement more than in any other age group."
According to Cindy Susienka, president of Beverly Rehabilitation, there are nine pilot programs using this approach: six in Beverly nursing homes and three in non-Beverly facilities. Non-Beverly institutions contract with Beverly Rehabilitation to provide rehabilitation service. The five Nautilus machines are standard equipment that has been specially adapted for this population (see photos). These machines fit into an area of 320 sq. ft. and can be leased over a 7-year period for affordability.Says Jim Teatum, president of Nautilus, "We provide handouts to residents that ask the question, 'Why should I strength train?' Nautilus provides the answer in layman's terms: It's safe, relatively undemanding and very effective in restoring strength and functionality." Nautilus also provides training for the therapists, either on-site or at Dr. Westcott's facility. "Results have been exciting," says Beverly's Susienka. "The program is customized to individual needs. Seniors like the equipment. It has adaptations for security and seat size. The resident is comfortable. Residents do make progress with traditional therapy, but once they begin using the Nautilus equipment, they begin to feel the progress themselves. The progress they see and feel energizes them to do more." Leg press exercises increase the strength of hips, thighs and calves to help the resident rise from a seated position. To further help with the sit-to-stand movement, a resident will do a set of reps on the Nautilus triceps press. By pushing on the handles of the device, the arms, upper body and shoulders gain strength, enabling the resident to push off from a seated position.

Because it is not uncommon to see nursing home residents sitting slumped over, simply because they lack the strength to sit erect, part of the exercise program is a workout on a neck extension device. This helps residents to hold their heads up higher and to optimize their speaking, eating and breathing.
The rowing/pulling machine focuses attention on the upper back muscles, while Nautilus's low-back machine is designed to build up the lumbar spine and strengthen the back muscles that contribute to improved posture.

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