The purpose of this study was to pilot test a function-focused exercise intervention consisting of strength and gait-speed training in elders with reduced walking speed, decreased walking endurance, and functional impairment. Twelve participants, 77.2 years old (± 7.34), whose usual gait speed was <0.85 m/s, with walking endurance of <305 m in 5 min, and who were functionally impaired participated in a moderate-intensity exercise intervention. The training occurred 3 times per week, 75 min per session, for 3 months and combined 4 weeks of gait-speed training, walking exercise, and functional strengthening. The participants demonstrated mean usual gait speeds (≥1.0 m/s), endurance (≥350 m), and functional ability (≥10 score on performance battery) that were within normal limits after 12 weeks of training. Fastest gait speed (≥1.5 m/s) and muscle strength also improved significantly. Improvements were maintained during follow-up testing after 3–6 months. In summary, a 12-week intervention for frail, mobility-disabled participants led to improvements in walking, function, and strength.
The authors are with the School of Allied Health Sciences, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX.