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Raquel Carvalho, Olga Vasconcelos, Pedro Gonçalves, Filipe Conceição and João Paulo Vilas-Boas

Exercise seems to attenuate the postural control system and anticipatory postural adjustments (APAs) decline, but no conclusive findings are available. This study analyses, in elderly people, the exercise effect in APAs during the raising of a load with both arms in the sagittal plane. Twenty eight males over the age of 60 (65,8 ± 4,07 yr old)—9 veterans in exercising, 9 who exercise recently, and 10 sedentary—were asked to raise a load with both arms simultaneously to shoulder level, in standing position, as fast as possible. It was studied the electromyography (EMG) pattern of the main muscles. The APAs were quantified through the time integral of EMG records (iEMG). Anticipatory changes in the postural muscles were seen in all groups. We observed, in the tibialis anterior activity, a higher significant activation in the sedentary compared with the other groups, suggesting that exercise can modulate the postural control system.

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Timo Suutama and Isto Ruoppila

Two follow-up studies were designed to analyze die cross-seciional and longitudinal associations between cognitive functioning and physical activity among two cohorts of elderly people. At baseline, over 90% of the 75- and 80-year-old populations were interviewed at home and almost 80% participated in the laboratory examinations. Cognitive functioning was assessed by psychometric tests and reaction time tasks, and physical activity was assessed by a subjective self-assessment as well as by objectively measured maximal walking speed. Among both cohorts, the decline over the 5-year period in cognitive functioning as well as in physical activity was generally small but statistically significant. The test-retest correlations were higher for the cognitive functioning scores than for the physical activity variables. The associations between cognitive functioning and physical activity were inconsistent and showed some differences between men and women.

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Sanna Sihvonen, Taina Rantanen and Eino Heikkinen

Changes in physical activity levels were followed over 5 years and the relationship between baseline physical activity and survival was investigated among residents of Jyväskylä. Baseline interviews were carried out for 109 men and 204 women age 75, and 67 men and 178 women age 80. At the time of the follow-up interviews 5 years later. 23 men and 37 women who were age 75 at baseline and 23 men and 50 women who were age 80 at baseline had died. Activity decreased significantly over the 5-year period in all groups. A greater proportion of women than men decreased their activity level in both age groups. Physical activity was significantly associated with better survival (p = .006) in the 80-year-old women, and a similar significant difference (p = .024) was observed among 75-year-old men. The differences in the survival curves in the other groups, although similar, were not statistically significant due to the small number of subjects and lack of statistical power.

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Jill N. Schulte and Kevin E. Yarasheski

Advancing age is associated with a reduction in skeletal muscle protein, muscle strength, muscle quality, and chemical modifications that may impair protein function. Sarcopenia has been coupled with physical disability, frailty, and a loss of independent function (5, 19). Using stable isotope tracer methodologies and mass spectrometric detection, we observed: (a) 76–92-year-old physically frail and 62–74-year-old middle-age adults have lower mixed muscle protein synthetic rates than 20–32-year-old men and women; (b) 2 weeks and 3 months of weightlifting exercise increased the synthetic rate of myosin heavy chain (MHC) and mixed muscle proteins to a similar magnitude in frail, middle-age, and young women and men; (c) Serum myostatin-immunoreactive protein levels were elevated in physically frail women and were inversely correlated with lean mass. This suggests that the protein synthetic machinery adapts rapidly to increased contractile activity and that the adaptive response(s) are maintained even in frail elders.

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Koichi Kaneda, Daisuke Sato, Hitoshi Wakabayashi, Atsuko Hanai and Takeo Nomura

This study compared the effects of 2 types of water exercise programs on balance ability in the elderly. Thirty healthy elderly persons (60.7 ± 4.1 yr) were randomly assigned to a deep-water-running exercise (DWRE, n = 15) group or a normal water exercise (NWE, n = 15) group. The participants completed a twice-weekly water exercise intervention for 12 wk. Exercise sessions comprised a 10-min warm-up on land, 20 min of water-walking exercise, 30 min of water exercise while separated into NWE and DWRE, a 10-min rest on land, and 10 min of recreation and relaxation in water. Postural-sway distance and tandem-walking time were decreased significantly in DWRE. Postural-sway area was decreased significantly in NWE. In both groups, simple reaction times were significantly decreased. The findings of this study show that a water exercise program including deep-water running is much better than normal water exercise for improving dynamic balance ability in the elderly.

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Terttu Parkatti, Jarmo Perttunen and Phyllis Wacker

This study examined the effects of an instructed structured Nordic walking (NW) exercise program on the functional capacity of older sedentary people. Volunteers were randomly assigned to an NW group (68.2 ± 3.8 yr old) or control group (69.9 ± 3.0 yr old). Before and at the end of the 9-wk intervention, functional tests and 2-dimensional ground-reaction-force (GRF) patterns of normal (1.40 m/s) and fast (1.94 m/s) walking speeds were measured. The intervention included a 60-min supervised NW session on an inside track twice a week for 9 wk. The mean changes in functional tests differed between groups significantly. Gait analyses showed no significant differences between the groups on any GRF parameters for walking speed either before or after the intervention. The study showed that NW has favorable effects on functional capacity in older people and is a suitable form of exercise for them.

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Pia Laukkanen, Markku Kauppinen and Eino Heikkinen

Identifying predictors of functional limitations among the elderly is essential for planning and implementing appropriate preventive services. The purpose of this prospective study was to examine baseline physical activity as a predictor of health and functional ability outcomes 5 years later in people age 75 and 80 years at baseline. A clear trend was observed: The more physically active subjects had better health and functional ability compared to their more sedentary counterparts. After controlling for the baseline status, the degree of physical activity did not predict future disability but still maintained its predictive role at the level of disease severity. It is suggested that the level of habitual physical activity is an important predictor of health and functional ability among elderly people. Presumably, however, there is a reciprocal causal relationship between physical activity and health in elderly people. Physical activity counseling should therefore be included in preventive health strategies for the elderly.

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Anna-Karin Welmer, Annika Mörck and Synneve Dahlin-Ivanoff

The aim of this study was to describe experiences of physical activity, perceived meaning, and the importance of and motives and barriers for participation in physical activity in people 80 years of age and older. A qualitative design with focus-group methodology was used. The sample consisted of 20 community-living people age 80–91 yr. Data analyses revealed 4 themes: physical activity as a part of everything else in life, joie de vivre, fear of disease and dependence, and perceptions of frailty. Our results suggest that physical activity was not seen as a separate activity but rather as a part of activities often rated as more important than the physical activity itself. Thus, when designing physical activity interventions for elderly people, health care providers should consider including time for social interaction and possibilities to be outdoors. Moreover, assessment of physical activity levels among elderly people should include the physical activity in everyday activities.

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Nina Waaler Loland

The aims of this study were to examine the level of exercise among elderly people with regard to the current Norwegian recommendations, demographic correlates of exercise, and the relationship between exercise and subjective health among elderly men and women. A representative sample of 3,770 Norwegian men and women between 65 and 97 years of age (mean 75 years) completed a questionnaire. The response rate was 83.4%. Results showed that 6% of the participants exercise at the level recommended. The oldest old (>80 years), those who have an illness and use medication, and individuals with lower levels of education and income are the least active segments of the sample. After adjusting for age, marital status, income, and education, results showed that exercise at moderate intensity 3–4 days per week is a significant predictor for positive subjective health.

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Kazuo Inoue, Teiji Shono and Masatoshi Matsumoto

The primary objective of this study was to determine whether the absence of outdoor activities is associated with an increased risk of mortality among elderly people living at home. In January 1995, the authors enrolled 863 household residents, 65 years old and older, who were able to fully understand and complete a baseline interview unassisted. Participant demographics, functional capabilities, activities of daily living, and three dimensions of outdoor activities (initiative, transport, and frequency) were examined. Cohort mortality was assessed through December 1999. Of the 863 participants, 139 (16.1%) died within the study observation period. After adjusting for gender and age, three dimensions of functional impairment (vision, hearing, and speech), impairment in activities of daily living, and all three dimensions of outdoor activities were predictive of 5-year mortality. In multivariate analysis, these three dimensions remained as explanatory variables for mortality at 5 years. Assessment of outdoor-activity levels can help identify elderly individuals with greater mortality risk.