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Functional Fitness and Physical Activity of Portuguese Community-Residing Older Adults

Élvio R. Gouveia, José A. Maia, Gaston P. Beunen, Cameron J. Blimkie, Ercília M. Fena, and Duarte L. Freitas

The purposes of this study were to generate functional-fitness norms for Portuguese older adults, to determine age and sex differences, and to analyze the physical activity–associated variation in functional fitness. The sample was composed of 802 older adults, 401 men and 401 women, age 60–79 yr. Functional fitness was assessed using the Senior Fitness Test. Physical activity level was estimated via the Baecke questionnaire. The P50 values decreased from 60 to 64 to 75 to 79 yr of age. A significant main effect for age group was found in all functional-fitness tests. Men scored significantly better than women in the chair stand, 8-ft up-and-go, and 6-min walk. Women scored significantly better than men in chair sit-and-reach and back scratch. Active participants scored better in functional-fitness tests than their average and nonactive peers. This study showed a decline in functional fitness with age, better performance of men, and increased proficiency in active participants.

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Increased Muscle Size and Strength From Slow-Movement, Low-Intensity Resistance Exercise and Tonic Force Generation

Yuya Watanabe, Michiya Tanimoto, Akane Ohgane, Kiyoshi Sanada, Motohiko Miyachi, and Naokata Ishii

The authors investigated the effects of low-intensity resistance training on muscle size and strength in older men and women. Thirty-five participants (age 59–76 yr) were randomly assigned to 2 groups and performed low-intensity (50% of 1-repetition maximum) knee-extension and -flexion exercises with either slow movement and tonic force generation (LST; 3-s eccentric, 3-s concentric, and 1-s isometric actions with no rest between repetitions) or normal speed (LN; 1-s concentric and 1-s eccentric actions with 1-s rests between repetitions) twice a week for 12 wk (2-wk preparation and 10-wk intervention). The LST significantly increased thigh-muscle thickness, as well as isometric knee-extension and -flexion strength. The LN significantly improved strength, but its hypertrophic effect was limited. These results indicate that even for older individuals, the LST can be an effective method for gaining muscle mass and strength.

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Traditional Versus Functional Strength Training: Effects on Muscle Strength and Power in the Elderly

Hilde Lohne-Seiler, Monica K. Torstveit, and Sigmund A. Anderssen

The aim was to determine whether strength training with machines vs. functional strength training at 80% of one-repetition maximum improves muscle strength and power among the elderly. Sixty-three subjects (69.9 ± 4.1 yr) were randomized to a high-power strength group (HPSG), a functional strength group (FSG), or a nonrandomized control group (CG). Data were collected using a force platform and linear encoder. The training dose was 2 times/wk, 3 sets × 8 reps, for 11 wk. There were no differences in effect between HPSG and FSG concerning sit-to-stand power, box-lift power, and bench-press maximum force. Leg-press maximum force improved in HPSG (19.8%) and FSG (19.7%) compared with CG (4.3%; p = .026). Bench-press power improved in HPSG (25.1%) compared with FSG (0.5%, p = .02) and CG (2%, p = .04). Except for bench-press power there were no differences in the effect of the training interventions on functional power and maximal body strength.

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Gardening as a Potential Activity to Reduce Falls in Older Adults

Tuo-Yu Chen and Megan C. Janke

This study examines whether participation in gardening predicts reduced fall risk and performance on balance and gait-speed measures in older adults. Data on adults age 65 and older (N = 3,237) from the Health and Retirement Study and Consumption and Activities Mail Survey were analyzed. Participants who spent 1 hr or more gardening in the past week were defined as gardeners, resulting in a total of 1,585 gardeners and 1,652 nongardeners. Independent t tests, chi square, and regression analyses were conducted to examine the relationship between gardening and health outcomes. Findings indicate that gardeners reported significantly better balance and gait speed and had fewer chronic conditions and functional limitations than nongardeners. Significantly fewer gardeners than nongardeners reported a fall in the past 2 yr. The findings suggest that gardening may be a potential activity to incorporate into future fall-prevention programs.

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A Case Study on the Perception of Aging and Participation in Physical Activities of Older Chinese Immigrants in Australia

Fung Kuen Koo

This qualitative study explores how older Hong Kong Chinese Australians perceive aging and to what extent this perception affects their participation in physical activities. The main methods used were in-depth interviews with 22 participants ranging in age from 60 to 91 years. Interviews were translated from Chinese (Cantonese) and transcribed into English. Content analysis was used to find recurring themes from the interview data. The main findings indicate that the perception of aging is to some extent influenced by culture. Some participants defined aging as being measured in years, and others defined it by the state of one’s physical health, appearance, and capacity to continue fulfilling one’s social roles. These perceptions strongly influenced their preferences for and participation in physical activities. Acknowledging the fact that Chinese-speaking people are not culturally homogeneous, this article makes some recommendations to health service providers with regard to the development of appropriate physical activity programs.

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Predicting Habitual Physical Activity Using Coping Strategies in Older Fallers Engaged in Falls-Prevention Exercise

Anne H. Laybourne, Simon Biggs, and Finbarr C. Martin

One third of adults over 65 yr old fall each year. Wide-ranging consequences include fracture, reduced activity, and death. Research synthesis suggests that falls-prevention programs can be effective in reducing falls by about 20%. Strength and balance training is the most efficacious component, and the assumed method of effect is an improvement in these performance domains. There is some evidence for this, but the authors have previously proposed an alternative method, activity restriction, leading to a reduction in subsequent falls through a reduction in exposure. The aim of this study was to examine physical activity in older fallers, applying a theory of adaptation, to ascertain predictors of habitual physical activity. Referrals to hospital- and community-based exercise programs were assessed for (a) habitual walking steps and (b) coping strategies, falls self-efficacy, social support, and balance mobility. There was no average group change in physical activity. There was high interindividual variability. Two coping strategies, loss-based selection and optimization, best explained the change in physical activity between baseline and follow-up. Notwithstanding some limitations, this work suggests further use of adaptation theory in falls research. A potential application is the creation of a profiling tool to enable clinicians to better match treatment to patient.

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Development of a Fall-Risk Self-Assessment for Community-Dwelling Seniors

Rebecca L. Vivrette, Laurence Z. Rubenstein, Jennifer L. Martin, Karen R. Josephson, and B. Josea Kramer

Objective:

To determine seniors’ beliefs about falls and design a fall-risk self-assessment and educational materials to promote early identification of evidence-based fall risks and encourage prevention behaviors.

Methods:

Focus groups with community-dwelling seniors, conducted in two phases to identify perceptions about fall risks and risk reduction and to assess face validity of the fall-risk self-assessment and acceptability of educational materials.

Results:

Lay perception of fall risks was in general concordance with evidence-based research. Maintaining independence and positive tone were perceived as key motivators for fall prevention. Seniors intended to use information in the educational tool to stimulate discussions about falls with health care providers.

Implications:

An evidence-based, educational fall-risk self-assessment acceptable to older adults can build on existing lay knowledge about fall risks and perception that falls are a relevant problem and can educate seniors about their specific risks and how to minimize them.

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The Effect of Functional Circuit Training on Physical Frailty in Frail Older Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Maria Giné-Garriga, Míriam Guerra, Esther Pagès, Todd M. Manini, Rosario Jiménez, and Viswanath B. Unnithan

The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether a 12-wk functional circuit-training program (FCT) could alter markers of physical frailty in a group of frail community-dwelling adults. Fifty-one individuals (31 women, 20 men), mean age (± SD) 84 (± 2.9) yr, met frailty criteria and were randomly assigned into groups (FCT = 26, control group [CG] = 25). FCT underwent a 12-wk exercise program. CG met once a week for health education meetings. Measures of physical frailty, function, strength, balance, and gait speed were assessed at Weeks 0, 12, and 36. Physical-frailty measures in FCT showed significant (p < .05) improvements relative to those in CG (Barthel Index at Weeks 0 and 36: 73.41 (± 2.35) and 77.0 (± 2.38) for the FCT and 70.79 (± 2.53) and 66.73 (± 2.73) for the CG. These data indicate that an FCT program is effective in improving measures of function and reducing physical frailty among frail older adults.

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Physical Activity and Cognition in Older Adults: The Potential of Tai Chi Chuan

Yu-Kai Chang, Yu-Hsiang Nien, Chia-Liang Tsai, and Jennifer L. Etnier

The purpose of this article is to review the potential of Tai Chi Chuan as a mode of physical activity that could have cognitive benefits for older adults and to provide potential directions for future research. A brief introduction to Tai Chi Chuan and its related physical benefits is provided. In addition, the empirical literature related to Tai Chi Chuan and cognition is reviewed. Potential mediators of the relationship between Tai Chi Chuan and cognition, including physical resources, disease status, and mental resources, are discussed. Based on the limitations of the extant literature, it is argued that future research in this area must provide more detailed descriptions of Tai Chi Chuan, particularly in terms of intensity and program progression. Consideration of the specific type of cognition that is expected to benefit is also encouraged, and approaches for further efforts to understand how Tai Chi Chuan affects cognition are recommended.

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Neighborhood Factors Relevant for Walking in Older, Urban, African American Adults

Nancy Ambrose Gallagher, Kimberlee A. Gretebeck, Jennifer C. Robinson, Elisa R. Torres, Susan L. Murphy, and Kristy K. Martyn

Focus-group and photo-voice methodology were used to identify the salient factors of the neighborhood environment that encourage or discourage walking in older, urban African Americans. Twenty-one male (n = 2) and female (n = 19) African Americans age 60 years and older (M = 70 ± 8.7, range = 61–85) were recruited from a large urban senior center. Photographs taken by the participants were used to facilitate focus-group discussions. The most salient factors that emerged included the presence of other people, neighborhood surroundings, and safety from crime, followed by sidewalk and traffic conditions, animals, public walking tracks and trails, and weather. Future walking interventions for older African Americans should include factors that encourage walking, such as the presence of other friendly or active people, attractive or peaceful surroundings, and a sense of safety from crime.