Archie Young obituary
4 min read
Geriatrician who pioneered the idea of strength training for elderly people
Unlike other exercise researchers in the 1980s who were focusing on heart health, the geriatrician Archie Young, who has died aged 73, was interested in strength and balance. To live independently and avoid falls, it is fundamental to have sufficient balance to stand upright and the muscle strength to get up from the toilet or a low chair, but before Young's discoveries many assumed that deteriorating muscle strength was both inevitable and irreversible in elderly people.

In the early 80s Young was a doctor in a rehabilitation unit in Oxford, where among other things he introduced ultrasound imaging to physiotherapy. In 1985 he became a consultant and then professor and head of geriatric medicine at the Royal Free hospital in London, where he helped set up Queen Mary's, a rehabilitation facility for elderly people. In both Oxford and London he conducted experiments with elderly volunteers, for example measuring their quadriceps (thigh muscle) and studying the effect of strengthening exercises.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Archie Young demonstrating a weightlifting technique

His research, which he reported in a key article, Exercise Physiology in Geriatric Practice (1986), showed that it was possible for elderly people to get stronger, keep frailty at bay and delay the point at which they could no longer live independently. He called this point "the functional threshold", and wrote: "Not only can exercise reverse the effects of immobilisation, it can readily produce a 10 to 20% improvement in strength and aerobic power, effectively postponing functionally important thresholds for some 10 to 20 years."

Today strength training is widely accepted as a vital tool for helping elderly people stay…
Read full article