Objectives: The purpose of this study was to assess the influence of leg power and leg strength on the physical performance of community-dwelling mobility-limited older people.
Design: Cross-sectional analysis of baseline data from a 12-week randomized controlled exercise-intervention study.
Setting: Exercise laboratory within the Department of Health Science of an urban university.
Participants: Forty-five community-dwelling mobility-limited people (34 women, 11 men), aged 65 to 83.
Measurements: Health status, depression, cognition, physical activity, and falls efficacy; physiological measures of lower extremity strength and power; and measures of physical performance.
Results: Through bivariate analyses, leg power was significantly associated with physical performance as measured by stair-climb time, chair-stand time, tandem gait, habitual gait, maximal gait, and the short physical performance battery describing between 12% and 45% of the variance (R2). Although leg power and leg strength were greatly correlated (r = .89) in a comparison of bivariate analyses of strength or power with physical performance, leg power modeled up to 8% more of the variance for five of six physical performance measures. Despite limitations in sample size, it appeared that, through quadratic modeling,the influence of leg power on physical performance was curvilinear. Using separate multivariate analyses, partial R2 values for leg power and leg strength were compared, demonstrating that leg power accounted for 2% to 8% more of the variance with all measures of physical performance.
Conclusion: Leg power is an important factor influencing the physical performance of mobility-limited older people. Although related to strength, it is a separate attribute that may exert a greater influence on physical performance. These findings have important implications for clinicians practicing geriatric rehabilitation.