Should Physical Activity Programs Be Tailored When Older Adults Have Compromised Function?

in Journal of Aging and Physical Activity

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Anthony P. Marsh
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Elizabeth A. Chmelo
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Jeffrey A. Katula
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Shannon L. Mihalko
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W. Jack Rejeski
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The purpose of this study was to determine whether a walking program supplemented by tasks designed to challenge balance and mobility (WALK+) could improve physical function more than a traditional walking program (WALK) in older adults at risk for mobility disability. 31 community-dwelling older adults (M ± SD age = 76 ± 5 yr; Short Physical Performance Battery [SPPB] score = 8.4 ± 1.7) were randomized to treatment. Both interventions were 18 sessions (1 hr, 3×/wk) and progressive in intensity and duration. Physical function was assessed using the SPPB and the 400-m-walk time. A subset of participants in the WALK group who had relatively lower baseline function showed only small improvement in their SPPB scores after the intervention (0.3 ± 0.5), whereas a subset of participants in the WALK+ group with low baseline function showed substantial improvement in their SPPB scores (2.2 ± 0.7). These preliminary data underscore the potential importance of tailoring interventions for older adults based on baseline levels of physical function.

The authors are with the Dept. of Health and Exercise Science, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC.

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