Effects of a Group Exercise Program on Strength, Mobility, and Falls Among Fall-Prone Elderly Men

Published in: Journal of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, v. 55, no. 6, 2000, p. M317-M321

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2000

by Laurence Rubenstein, Karen R. Josephson, Peggy R. Trueblood, Steven Loy, Judith O. Harker, Fern M. Pietruszka, Alan S. Robbins

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OBJECTIVES: This randomized controlled trial studied the effects of a low- to moderate-intensity group exercise program on strength, endurance, mobility, and fall rates in fall-prone elderly men with chronic impairments. METHODS: Fifty-nine community living men (mean age = 74 years) with specific fall risk factors (i.e., leg weakness, impaired gait or balance, previous falls) were randomly assigned to a control group (n = 28) or to a 12-week group exercise program (n = 3 1). Exercise sessions (90 minutes, three times per week) focused on increasing strength and endurance and improving mobility and balance. OUTCOME:measures included isokinetic strength and endurance, five physical performance measures, and self-reported physical functioning, health perception, activity level, and falls. RESULT: Exercisers showed significant improvement in measures of endurance and gait. Isokinetic endurance increased 21 % for right knee flexion and 26% for extension. Exercisers had a 10% increase (p < .05) in distance walked in six minutes, and improved (p < .05) scores on an observational gait scale. Isokinetic strength improved only for right knee flexion. Exercise achieved no significant effect on hip or ankle strength, balance, self-reported physical functioning, or number of falls. Activity level increased within the exercise group. When fall rates were adjusted for activity level, the exercisers had a lower 3-month fall rate than controls (6 falls/1000 hours of activity vs 16.2 falls/1000 hours, p < .05). Discussion. These findings suggest that exercise can improve endurance, strength, gait, and function in chronically impaired, fall-prone elderly persons. In addition, increased physical activity was associated with reduced fall rates when adjusted for level of activity.

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