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Community Exercise Programs Boost Seniors' Strength

Regular participation can also reduce risk of falls, study says

FRIDAY, Dec. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Regular participation in community exercise programs can help older adults boost their upper- and lower-body strength.

So says a U.S. study that included 544 people, average age 66, who took part in three nationally-recognized workout programs for older adults.

The participants were evaluated before they started the exercise programs and at 5- and 10-month intervals. There were no significant changes in certain areas, such as body weight or general health, but participants in the exercise programs increased the frequency of their total physical activity by 26 percent, compared with 9 percent for members of a control group.

The study authors also found that after five months, participants in the exercise programs showed a 19 percent increase in the number of stands per minute they could do in the sit-stand test -- from 26 per minute to 31 per minute.

There were also improvements in the arm-curl test. Before the exercise program, participants averaged 15 arm curls in 30 seconds. That increased to 18 in 30 seconds after 5 months (a 22 percent increase) and to 20 in 30 seconds (a 33 percent increase) after 10 months of doing an exercise program.

The findings, expected to be published in the February issue of the American Journal of Public Health, indicate these exercise programs could reduce seniors' risk of falls. These types of exercise programs should be encouraged and supported because their cost is relatively low compared to that of medical care, the researchers said.

Despite the known benefits of exercise, more than 60 percent of older adults don't get consistent workouts, noted study lead author Susan Hughes, of the Center for Research on Health and Aging at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

"Some do not participate, because they may not realize that exercise still provides benefits at older ages; some have chronic conditions that they worry could be made worse by exercise; and some can't find a good program at a good price at a convenient location," Hughes said in a Center for the Advancement of Health news release.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about exercise for seniors.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Center for the Advancement of Health, news release, Dec. 9, 2008

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