Transfer of Training- From Exercises to Daily Life

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

One of my older adult clients asked me,

“My sister (who’s 70 years old) does pilates and walks frequently, but why is her balance not ideal and tends to fall easily?”

To that, I answered, “it’s likely transfer of training”.

You see, many older adults use walking as their main form of exercise without knowing that, while it is good, it tends to be insufficient if that’s the only exercise they do. To me, exercise isn’t just a way to maintain your weight and stay healthy, it is a way for you to regain, maintain, and further your functionality too. To do that, we need to be mindful of this concept often used in the sporting world- the transfer of training. Simply put, it’s how much the training/ exercise will translate into an actual improvement in performance.

It’s like understanding if the quarter or half or full squat is better at inducing improvements in jump performance in a strength and conditioning context; that kind of concept can be easily applied to understanding exercises and the functionality benefits it may confer for older adults. Almost like how you work on squats so you can sit down and stand up from the sofa without any issue.

In my client’s sister case, it seems like while she walks and has lots of midsection work done through pilates, there is little transfer of training that may apply for her balance and fall prevention. A careful look at her exercise program seems to reveal not much lower body work done and no standing balancing exercise. No wonder she falls easily; the strength in her lower limb isn’t great to begin with and the lack of any substantial maintenance only serves to exacerbate the suboptimal balance she already has.

Her exercise program needs to include elements that present a clear transfer of training from lower limb strength and balance training to improved gait and stability despite external challenges. Since transfer of training is specific, the programming has to be well thought out to allow a good and direct transfer. The initial phase of it, though, can be as simple as including squats and simple balancing exercises into her program.

You can almost say that you can apply “if you don’t use it, you lose it” concept to exercises. Since we want to cultivate good balance, we can start by working on simple standing balancing exercises before progressing to dynamic balances that are similar to challenges met in daily life. At every step along the way, transfer of training from exercise to daily life has to be considered for programming and progressed as she progresses.

All in all, the outcome of exercises has to be such that she has better balance and won’t fall so easily. That in itself a demonstration of transfer of training and how good understanding and meticulous programming will go a long way towards maintaining and improving your functionality and therefore quality of life.

Supporting your lifestyle needs,