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Exercise and Physical Functional Performance in Independent Older Adults

Program Synopsis

Designed to enhance body endurance and body strength among older adults, this intervention consists of supervised exercise sessions with a warm-up, cool-down, and strength and endurance training using machines and free weights. The study showed an increase in knee and leg strength and aerobic capacity.

Program Highlights

Purpose: Designed to enhance body endurance and body strength among older adults (1999).
Age: 65+ Years (Older Adults)
Sex: Female, Male
Race/Ethnicity: This information has not been reported.
Program Focus: Self-Efficacy
Population Focus: Sedentary People
Program Area: Physical Activity
Delivery Location: Other Settings
Community Type: This information has not been reported.
Program Materials

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RE-AIM Scores

Age-related loss in such physiologic capacities as oxygen consumption and strength contributes to the decline in physical function in the elderly population. Exercise is widely recognized for its beneficial effects on these physiologic capacities. Until now, research on exercise intervention has failed to demonstrate that increasing strength and endurance affects older adults'functionality, making it easier for them to climb stairs, board a bus, or do laundry, for example. Investigators speculate that the benefits of exercise on older adults may not be evident or are not being detected. This study developed an exercise intervention and specialized scale called the Continuous Scale-Physical Functional Performance test (CS-PFP) that was developed to detect functional benefits of this exercise protocol.

The exercise program is designed to train multi-joint muscles in order to train all muscle groups important to performing daily tasks efficiently. Activities include use of various Stairmaster machines for lower body endurance and strength training. Free weights and rowing machines are used to increase upper body strength.

For the study, supervised, 60-minute sessions were conducted 3 times per week for 6 months.

This program uses an intervention approach recommended by the Community Preventive Services Task Force: individually-adapted health behavior change programs (Physical Activity).

The exercise program is to be followed 3 times per week for 60 minutes a session, with 10 minutes allotted for warm-up and cool-down and 40 minutes for training.

Participants were men and women, 70 years of age or older and in relatively good health, living in a retirement community or an apartment.

This intervention is suitable for implementation in a community setting.

Required resources include strength-training machines and free weights.  Costs associated with the program's implementation are not provided.

Participants were randomly assigned to either the exercise group or the control group. Over a sixth month period, participants in the exercise group had supervised, 60-minute workout sessions, three times per week. Training sessions included a 10-minute warm-up and cool-down and 40 minutes of training on machines and with free weights. Strength training intensity was set at 75% - 80% of an estimated one repetition maximum and endurance training intensity was 75% - 80% of heart-rate reserve. The CS-PFP test was administered in a neighborhood facility. Participants were asked to complete such tasks as carrying groceries on and off a bus platform, making a bed, putting on and removing a jacket, and getting down and up from the floor.

Results indicated:

  • Scores on the Continuous Scale - Physical Functional Performance test increased in the exercise group compared to the control group, with an increase of 13% in upper body and 14% in lower body strength (p = 0.008 and 0.001, respectively) and a 20% increase in endurance (p = 0.02).
  • Compared to the control group, participants in the exercise group had a 33% increase in skeletal muscle strength and an 11% increase in aerobic capacity.
  • The exercise program increased isolated measures of maximalleg strength. Knee flexion strength increased by 9%, isotonic leg and hip strength (leg press) increased by 33% and aerobic capacity increased by 10.5%, while the control group remained unchanged.

Graph of Study Results


Cress ME, Buchner DM, Questad KA, Esselman PC, deLateur BJ, Schwarts RS. (1999). Exercise: Effect of Physical Functional Performance in Independent Older Adults. Journal of Gerontology, 54A (5), M242-M248.

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Updated: 06/16/2020