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C. Jessie Jones and Janie Clark

Because of the recognized value of exercise for older adults, senior fitness programs have been developed in various facilities throughout the United States and in many other countries. However, there appears to be a shortage of professionally trained senior fitness specialists to develop and instruct such programs. A number of professional health and fitness organizations/associations and individual entrepreneurs have developed training programs leading to some type of certification. However, because there are no published curriculum standards to guide the development of these training programs, they often lack components essential for teaching students how to instruct safe and effective classes for senior participants. Curriculum Standards to Prepare Senior Fitness Instructors, developed by a national coalition, were presented at the 1995 International Conference on Aging and Physical Activity in Colorado. This project was undertaken not to promote national certification or licensing but, rather, to help educators plan training programs. Input from the conferees was synthesized into the standards, which are provided in this paper.

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C. Jessie Jones and Roberta E. Rikli

Despite dramatic increases in the older adult population, curriculum development in the area of physical activity and aging has been minimal or nonexistent in most physical education departments in higher education. As a consequence, many practitioners leading programs for older adults have had to rely primarily on self-study and on-the-job training for the knowledge and skills they need. The purpose of this paper is to suggest minimum competencies for preparing specialists in the field of physical activity and aging and to recommend corresponding curriculum development. Suggested core offerings for a concentration in physical activity and aging are presented, including specific course content for three specialty courses: physical activity and aging, physical assessment and exercise programming for older adults, and therapeutic exercise for age related chronic conditions. In view of the fact that many departments are faced with declining budgets and program cutbacks, alternative strategies for curricular revision and for integrating gerontological content into the existing physical education curriculum are discussed.

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Roberta E. Rikli and C. Jessie Jones

With the projected growth in the older adult population, preventing or delaying physical disability in later years has become a national goal. Evidence suggests that physiological decline, especially that associated with physical inactivity, is modifiable through proper assessment and activity intervention. However, a major limitation in reducing loss of function in later years is the lack of suitable assessment tools. Especially lacking are tests that can measure physical performance on a continuum across the wide range of functioning in the independent, community-residing older adult population. Of special concern is the ability to assess underlying physical parameters associated with common activities of daily living. Additional tools are needed for measuring physical performance in older adults, especially tools that meet established guidelines in terms of reliability, validity, discrimination power, and performance evaluation standards.

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Roberta E. Rikli and C. Jessie Jones

Preventing or delaying the onset of physical frailty is an increasingly important goal because more individuals are living well into their 8th and 9th decades. We describe the development and validation of a functional fitness test battery that can assess the physiologic parameters that support physical mobility in older adults. The procedures involved in the test development were (a) developing a theoretical framework for the test items, (b) establishing an advisory panel of experts, (c) determining test selection criteria, (d) selecting the test items, and (e) establishing test reliability and validity. The complete battery consists of 6 items (and one alternative) designed to assess the physiologic parameters associated with independent functioning—lower and upper body strength, aerobic endurance, lower and upper body flexibility, and agility/dynamic balance. We also assessed body mass index as an estimate of body composition. We concluded that the tests met the established criteria for scientific rigor and feasibility for use in common community settings.

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Edited by Debra J. Rose and C. Jessie Jones

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Roberta E. Rikli and C. Jessie Jones

This article describes a nationwide study conducted to develop normative performance data for community-residing older adults. The physical parameters assessed are strength, aerobic endurance, flexibility, and agility/balance. Body mass index was also assessed as an estimate of body composition. The sample comprised 7,183 participants from 267 sites in 21 states. Summary data (M, SD, and percentiles) are reported separately for men and women in 5-year age groups. Results reveal a pattern of decline across most age groups on all variables. ANOVA and post hoc comparisons indicated a significant main effect for age on all variables and that most 5-year age-group declines were significant (p < .007). ANOVAs also revealed a significant main effect for gender on all test items (p < .0001): Men scored better on strength, aerobic endurance, and agility/balance; women scored better on flexibility. The data provide information about normal variations within and usual rates of change across age groups, and they provide a database for subsequent evaluation of individual and group performance.

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Roberta E. Rikli and C. Jessie Jones

The purpose of this study was to assess the reliability and validity of a 6-min walk test as a measure of physical endurance in older adults. Seventy-seven subjects, ages 60-87. performed three separate 6-min walk tests and a treadmill test and completed questionnaire items assessing physical activity level and functional status. The 6-min walk had good test-retest reliability (.88 <R < .94). particularly when a practice trial preceded the test trial. Convergent validity of the 6-min walk was demonstrated by its moderate correlation (.71 < r < .82) with treadmill performance. Construct validity was assessed by determining the ability of the test to detect differences between different age and activity level groups. As expected, walking scores decreased significantly across decades and were significantly lower for low-active subjects compared to high-active subjects. There was a moderate relationship between 6-min walk scores and self-reported functional ability. It was concluded that the 6-min walk can be used to obtain reasonably reliable and valid measures of physical endurance in older adults and that it moderately reflects overall physical functional performance.

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Edited by C. Jessie Jones and Debra J. Rose

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C. Jessie Jones, Roberta E. Rikli, Jackie Benedict and Paula Williams

It has been well documented that high-intensity strength training using weight machines and other laboratory controlled equipment and procedures improves strength in older adults. However, few studies have investigated the effects of low-cost, less intense strength conditioning programs suitable for use in a community setting. The purpose of this study was to test the effects of a 16-week, self-regulated resistance training program on strength and endurance of the ankle dorsi- and plantar flexors, and of the knee extensors and flexors. Forty-six older women (M = 67 yrs) were randomly assigned to either control or exercise groups. After initial testing, exercisers began a training regimen of seven exercises that stressed muscle groups of the lower extremities. Control subjects maintained their normal activity patterns. Significant (p < .05) or borderline significant (p < .07) exercise effects were found on 10 of the 16 dependent measures. Results of this study indicate that a field-based strength conditioning program of moderate, self-regulated intensity can improve some aspects of lower limb muscle function of older women.