Effects of resistance training on functional ability in elderly individuals

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American Journal of Health Promotion


Purpose. Determine the effects of 16 weeks of strength training on measures of functional ability in elderly who are functionally limited.

Design. Quasi-experimental trial in which elderly volunteers were assigned to either an exercise group or a control group.

Participants. Eighty-seven participants (65–93 years) living independently but with some functional limitations.

Intervention. Thirteen different strength training exercises using Thera-Band resistive bands (Hygenic Corporation, Akron, Ohio). The program was 16 weeks in duration, and the frequency was three times per week. Participants exercised in a group setting one time per week and were given a home exercise book to follow for two additional sessions per week.

Measures. Functional ability was operationalized to include a variety of measures related to functional ability that impact activities of daily living, morbidity, and mortality in the elderly, including upper- and lower-body strength and gait.

Analysis. Intervention effects were analyzed using a 2 (groups: exercise group vs. control group) × 3 (time: baseline vs. mid vs. post) analysis of variance.

Results. The exercise group demonstrated significant improvements in upper-body strength as measured by biceps curl (F[2,140] = 39.870; p < .05) and lower-body strength as measured by chair sit-to-stand (F[2,124] = 25.887; p < .05). Gait velocity (F[2,140] = 37.317; p < .05) and step length (F[2,140] = 4.182; p < .05) both increased for the exercise group at week 9, but this increase disappeared by week 17. Compared with minimal changes in the control group, the exercise group demonstrated significant improvements in upper-body strength as measured by biceps curl and lower-body strength as measured by chair sit-to-stand.

Conclusion. Some measures of function ability were improved after a 16-week structured exercise program for functionally limited elderly. Because functional ability has been inversely correlated with short-term morbidity and the need for assisted living among older adults, providing opportunities to exercise is crucial to future functioning and independence of the elderly population.


American Journal of Health Promotion, Volume 25, No. 4, pp 237-243 (March, 2011). DOI: 10.4278/ajhp.081125-QUAN-292