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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requested an evidence-based systematic review of physical activity interventions to better assess the potential benefits of physical activity as it relates to older adults. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled clinical trials of the effects of exercise on health and related outcomes for seniors. To be included, studies had to report outcomes on strength, cardiovascular fitness, physical function, or depression. (Other outcomes were not reported sufficiently often to justify meta-analysis.) The strongest evidence supporting a beneficial effect of exercise in older adults was in fall reduction. There were sufficient data to conclude that exercise can modestly to moderately improve strength and cardiovascular performance among previously sedentary older people. The benefits in endurance were equivalent in a change in maximal exertion from pitching softball to playing singles tennis. There was also trend supporting modest benefits of exercise on function and depression.

Reprinted with permission from Office of Research, Development, and Information Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Originally published in: Evidence Report and Evidence-Based Recommendations: Exercise Programs for Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.

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