"We were very conscious of the fact that we wanted to make something that would reach a broad array of performance levels and physical capabilities," McAuley said.
Participants were asked to complete daily exercise logs and received short support telephone calls with exercise tips every other week for the first two months, and then every month. The control group also received the telephone calls.
The researchers were interested in whether a home-based exercise program could be as effective as classes offered in a central location, McAuley said.
"When we run these trials here (at the university) it's a lot of time, a lot of effort and can be an inconvenience for participants," he said. "Physical activity is one of those behaviors that people find very easy to see as inconvenient and they will come up with any excuse not to do it."
A home-based program could reach many more people than a center-based intervention, and at a much lower cost, he said.
At the end of the six months, those who stayed with the FlexToBa program saw "clinically important" improvements in scores on a battery of tests of physical function as compared with the control group. These tests assess strength, balance and gait, and have proven to be useful indicators of future performance, disability and independence in older adults. Unlike those in the control group, FlexToBa participants saw increases in their upper body strength and balance, and were able to maintain their previous level of lower body flexibility.
"This has important implications for an increasingly elderly population who are at risk for subsequent declines in function and increased disability," McAuley said. "We now know that this type of program can help to prevent that decline, and possibly reverse it."
|Contact: Diana Yates|
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign