Exercise for Daily Activities (ADL training)
When competitive athletes are training for events, they perform sport-specific exercises which mimic, or even exactly replicate the types of movements used in their sports. For instance, a tennis player will perform line drills, where she will run forward and back to a successive series of lines. This copies the forward and backward sprints to hit a ball. A hockey player will hit a series of pucks into the net in rapid succession in order to replicate his ability to make an accurate slap shot. ADL training (ADL stands for Activities of Daily Living) is the non-athlete’s version of that type of training. In ADL training, rather than taking a sport-specific movement and training it, we create an exercise based upon the skills we perform daily. By repeating the chain of movements involved in an activity we wish to improve, we rewire the structures in the brain, spinal column, and peripheral nervous system, thereby making that movement easier to perform. While ADL training has been used as a rehabilitation technique up until now, it is beginning to be more popular for general fitness. Research has shown that ADL-based training, compared to standard resistance protocols, has shown similar or greater improvements in test subjects. ADL training is very effective for maintaining independence as we get older.
Here is a simple drill which will help you to reach objects on shelves or other places, and will even help with other overhead movements such as combing your hair. Take a standard tall book shelf, and remove half of the books on the middle three shelves. Next, fill two or more (empty) gallon milk jugs either ½, ¾, or fully with water. How much water you place in the jug will depend upon your current strength level – do not over-do it! The object of the drill is to move all the jugs from the lower shelf to the upper shelf, then to the next shelf down, and then to the lowest shelf again. Changing the water levels and the shelf heights will change the motor difficulty of the drill.
You can perform this drill for 2 minutes at a time, depending upon the heaviness of the jugs, and how high and how low your shelves are. If the drill is very strenuous, perform it for a shorter period of time. Remember to begin with lower shelves and very light weight. It takes time to build your skill and ability, which cannot be rushed!
As always, be sure to have clearance from your doctor before you begin this or any other exercise program. This article does not constitute medical advice.