Background: Although inactivity is an important contributor to impaired functioning and disability with age, little is known concerning how improvements in physical functioning and well-being in older adults vary with the type of physical activity undertaken.
Methods: One hundred three adults age 65 years and older, recruited via population-based methods, were randomized to 12 months of community-based, moderate-intensity endurance and strengthening exercises (Fit & Firm) or stretching and flexibility exercises (Stretch & Flex). A combination of class- and home-based exercise formats was used. Measured and self-rated physical performance along with perceived functioning and well-being were assessed pre- and postintervention.
Results: Fit & Firm subjects showed greater 12-month improvements in both measured and self-rated endurance and strength compared to Stretch & Flex subjects. Stretch & Flex subjects reported greater improvements in bodily pain, and Stretch & Flex men evidenced greater improvements in flexibility relative to Fit & Firm subjects. Although overall exercise adherence was high in both exercise conditions (approximately 80%), subjects in both conditions showed better adherence to the home- versus class-based portions of their exercise prescriptions.
Conclusions: Community-based programs focusing on moderate-intensity endurance and strengthening exercises or flexibility exercises can be delivered through a combination of formats that result in improvement in important functional and well-being outcomes. This represents one of the first studies to report significant improvements in an important quality of life outcome-bodily pain-with a regular regimen of stretching and flexibility exercises in a community-based sample of older adults.