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Ruth E. Taylor-Piliae, Kathryn A. Newell, Rise Cherin, Martin J. Lee, Abby C. King and William L. Haskell

Objective:

To compare the effects of Tai Chi (TC, n = 37) and Western exercise (WE, n = 39) with an attention-control group (C, n = 56) on physical and cognitive functioning in healthy adults age 69 ± 5.8 yr, in a 2-phase randomized trial.

Methods:

TC and WE involved combined class and home-based protocols. Physical functioning included balance, strength, flexibility, and cardiorespiratory endurance. Cognitive functioning included semantic fluency and digit-span tests. Data were analyzed using intention-to-treat analysis.

Results:

At 6 mo, WE had greater improvements in upper body flexibility (F = 4.67, p = .01) than TC and C. TC had greater improvements in balance (F = 3.36, p = .04) and a cognitive-function measure (F = 7.75, p < .001) than WE and C. The differential cognitive-function improvements observed in TC were maintained through 12 mo.

Conclusion:

The TC and WE interventions resulted in differential improvements in physical functioning among generally healthy older adults. TC led to improvement in an indicator of cognitive functioning that was maintained through 12 mo.

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Carrie S. Baker, Jennifer M. Medina McKeon and Ellen L. Usher

Self-efficacy of balance, a psychological characteristic, may provide information regarding psychological risk factors for lower-extremity injury. Validated instruments to assess self-efficacy of balance do not currently exist. The objective of this study was to determine the face and content validity of the Self-Efficacy of Balance Scale (SEBS) for an adolescent population, as well as content validity, construct and convergent validity of the overall instrument. A series of panelists (n = 11) assessed proposed items for face and content validity for self-efficacy of balance. Construct and convergent validity were assessed with active college individuals (n = 74) and female high school basketball athletes (n = 57). Original items were revised to 21 items. Panelists validated both face and content validity of the SEBS. All items were assessed to have the construct of self-efficacy. Evidence of convergent validity supported the proposed construct of self-efficacy, and was found to be relevant to the physical functioning of a young, active population.

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Jack M. Guralnik, Suzanne Leveille, Stefano Volpato, Marcia S. Marx and Jiska Cohen-Mansfield

Epidemiological studies have demonstrated that, using objective performance measures of physical functioning, disability risk can be predicted in nondisabled older adults. This makes it possible to recruit a nondisabled but at-risk population for clinical trials of disability prevention. Successful disability prevention in this population, for example through an exercise program, would have a major public health impact. To enhance the development of exercise interventions in this group it would be valuable to have additional information not available from existing epidemiologic studies. This report examines the evidence that functional limitations preceding disability can be identified in a community-dwelling population and that it is feasible to recruit these people into studies. It introduces a series of articles examining the characteristics of this population: motivators and barriers to exercise, exercise habits and preferences, the impact of positive and negative affect, and the impact of pain and functional limitations on attitudes toward exercise.

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Christopher A. Shields, David M. Paskevich and Lawrence R. Brawley

This article presents three studies representing the development stages of a theoretically driven measure employed to assess the frequency of use of the self-presentational strategy of self-handicapping in exercise contexts (Self-Handicapping Exercise Questionnaire: SHEQ). First a pilot study was conducted to examine the nature of the phenomenology of self-handicaps reported in exercise settings. Study 2 involved item creation, item trimming, and model confirmation. Study 3 concerned factorial validation, cross-validating the self-handicapping measure created in the second study. The outcome was a 20-item measure assessing self-handicapping claims in exercise. The results of both model-testing studies indicated three unique and stable factors addressing self-handicapping claims about making exercise a routine, training in an exercise facility, and healthy physical functioning. Self-handicapping responses were not moderated by gender, age, or exercise setting. Further use and development of the SHEQ is discussed.

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Joanna S. Kostka, Jan W. Czernicki and Tomasz J. Kostka

We assessed the relative association of quadriceps muscle strength and power as well as optimal shortening velocity (υopt) to physical functioning in 28 women aged 50–87 years with chronic osteoarthritis participating in a three-week multimodal exercise program. Quadriceps muscle strength, power, υopt, and functional performance using the Activities of Daily Living (ADL) scale, Timed Up & Go (TUG) test, Tinetti test, and 6-Minute Walking Test (6-MWT) were assessed pre- and postrehabilitation. With rehabilitation, patients improved the values of strength, power, and the results of all functional tests. Both at baseline and postrehabilitation, functional status was more strongly related to power and υopt than to strength. Functional gains obtained with rehabilitation were not related to changes in power or υopt, and only very modestly related to changes in strength. Future studies should assess the benefits and feasibility of power- and velocity-oriented training in patients with osteoarthritis.

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Anni Rava, Anu Pihlak, Jaan Ereline, Helena Gapeyeva, Tatjana Kums, Priit Purge, Jaak Jürimäe and Mati Pääsuke

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the differences in body composition, neuromuscular performance, and mobility in healthy, regularly exercising and inactive older women, and examine the relationship between skeletal muscle indices and mobility. Overall, 32 healthy older women participated. They were divided into groups according to their physical activity history as regularly exercising (n = 22) and inactive (n = 10) women. Body composition, hand grip strength, leg extensor muscle strength, rapid force development, power output, and mobility indices were assessed. Regularly exercising women had lower fat mass and higher values for leg extensor muscle strength and muscle quality, and also for mobility. Leg extensor muscle strength and power output during vertical jumping and appendicular lean mass per unit of body mass were associated with mobility in healthy older women. It was concluded that long-term regular exercising may have beneficial effects on body composition and physical function in older women.

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Jennifer J. Heisz and Ana Kovacevic

Age-related changes in the brain can compromise cognitive function. However, in some cases, the brain is able to functionally reorganize to compensate for some of this loss. The present paper reviews the benefits of exercise on executive functions in older adults and discusses a potential mechanism through which exercise may change the way the brain processes information for better cognitive outcomes. Specifically, older adults who are more physically active demonstrate a shift toward local neural processing that is associated with better executive functions. We discuss the use of neural complexity as a sensitive measure of the neural network plasticity that is enhanced through exercise. We conclude by highlighting the future work needed to improve exercise prescriptions that help older adults maintain their cognitive and physical functions for longer into their lifespan.

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Chiung-ju Liu, Leah Y. Jones, Alyssa R. M. Formyduval and Daniel O. Clark

The purpose of this feasibility study was to evaluate the 3-Step Workout for Life program, a 10-week exercise program that included moderate-intensity muscle strength training followed by task-oriented training. Fourteen participants completed the program (mean age = 73 years; SD = 6.83). The Box and Block test (Z = −2.24, p = .03) and the 30-s chair stand test (Z = −2.21, p = .03) indicate improved physical functioning of the upper and lower extremities. More importantly, results of the function component from the Late-Life Function and Disability Instrument (Z = −2.04, p = .04) and motor skills scale from the Assessment of Motor and Process Skills (Z = −2.97, p = .003) indicate subjective and objective improvements on performing activities of daily living. Supplementing moderate-intensity muscle strength exercise with taskoriented training components is feasible. Preliminary data support the effectiveness of 3-Step Workout for Life in reducing late-life disability.

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Lorraine J. Phillips and Marcia Flesner

This qualitative study investigated individual and situational factors influencing physical activity (PA) practices of elders in residential-care/assisted-living (RC/ AL) communities. This article describes the results of focus-group interviews involving 47 residents across 6 RC/AL settings. Thematic analysis revealed 6 themes: staying active, past PA experiences, value of PA, barriers to PA, strategies to facilitate PA, and support needs to promote PA. Staying active meant walking indoors and out, attending chair-exercise programs, performing professionally prescribed home exercises, and using available exercise equipment. Past PA experiences shaped current preferences and practices. Participants agreed that exercise helped maintain physical functioning but recounted cognitive and situational barriers to PA. Lack of dedicated exercise space and short corridors hampered efforts to stay active. Participants wished for individualized home exercise programs and supervised exercise sessions. Future research should examine the extent to which the physical environment and PA programming in RC/AL communities affect elders’ PA.

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Jitka Jancova-Vseteckova, Martin Bobak, Ruzena Kubinova, Nada Capkova, Anne Peasey, Michael G. Marmot and Hynek Pikhart

Background:

The aim was to examine the association of objective measures of physical functioning (PF) with education and material circumstances and the decline in PF with age by socioeconomic position (SEP).

Methods:

In 3,205 subjects (60–75 years) from the Czech Republic, we assessed relationship between PF, SEP, and age. Linear regression was used to assess PF measures and SEP measures.

Results:

Cross-sectional decline in PF by age was similar in all individuals. Differences between SEP groups were similar across age groups, except for the difference in walk speed by material circumstances in men—bigger at older ages (p = .004). Men and women with the highest education were about 2 s faster at the chair rise test than those with the lowest education.

Discussion:

Findings suggest strong educational gradient in PF, an inconsistent role of self-assessed material circumstances, and virtually no interaction of SEP with the cross-sectional decline in PF by age.