Background: Identification of the physiologic factors most relevant to functional independence in the elderly population is critical for the design of effective interventions. It has been suggested that muscle power may be more directly related to impaired physical performance than muscle strength in elderly persons. We tested the hypothesis that peak muscle power is closely associated with self-reported functional status in sedentary elderly community-dwelling women.
Methods: We used baseline data that were collected as part of a 1-year randomized controlled clinical trial of a combined program of strength, power, and endurance training in 80 elderly women (mean age 74.8 +/- 5.0 years) with 3.2 +/- 1.9 chronic diseases, selected for baseline functional impairment and/or falls.
Results: Functional status at baseline was related in univariate analyses to physiologic capacity, habitual physical activity level, neuropsychological status, and medical diagnoses. Leg power had the strongest univariate correlation to self-reported functional status (r = -.47, p < .0001) of any of the physiologic factors we tested. In a forward stepwise regression model, leg press power and habitual physical activity level were the only two factors that contributed independently to functional status (r = .64, p < .0001), accounting for 40% of the variance in functional status.
Conclusions: Leg power is a strong predictor of self-reported functional status in elderly women.