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.
Guralnik and Volpato are with the Laboratory of Epidemiology, Demography and Biometry, Natl. Institute on Aging, Natl. Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892. Leveille is with the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center for Aged, 1200 Centre St., Boston, MA 02131. Marx and Cohen-Mansfield are with the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington, Research Institute on Aging, 6121 Montrose Road, Rockville, MD 20852.
Editorial Note: This special section of JAPA is dedicated to the publication of six original research articles on the issue of physical activity and disability prevention. The coordinator for the section is Dr. Jack Guralnik of the National Institute on Aging. The initial idea for the special section was formulated at the 2001 annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America. The editorial office wishes to thank Professor Guralnik and his colleagues for their work in compiling the manuscripts, all of which underwent independent peer review by expert reviewers.