Loss of balance and falling are critical concerns for older adults. Physical activity can improve balance and decrease the risk of falling. The purpose of this study was to evaluate a simple, low-cost exercise program for community-dwelling older adults. Sixteen senior adults were evaluated using the Senior Fitness Test for measures of functional strength, aerobic endurance, dynamic balance and agility, and flexibility. In addition, measures of height, weight, resting blood pressure, blood lipids, and cognitive function were obtained. Participants then attended a 10-week exercise class including stretching, strengthening, and balance-training exercises. At the completion of the program, significant improvements were observed in tests measuring dynamic balance and agility, lower and upper extremity strength, and upper extremity flexibility. The results indicate that exercise programs such as this are an effective, low-cost solution to improving health and factors that affect falling risk among older adults.
The authors are with the Office for Studies on Aging, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701.