Functional fitness gain varies in older adults depending on exercise mode

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007 Nov;39(11):2036-43. doi: 10.1249/mss.0b013e31814844b7.


Various exercise modes are available to improve functional fitness (FF) in older adults. However, information on the comparative capability of different exercise modes to improve FF is insufficient.

Purpose: To compare the effects of aerobic, resistance, flexibility, balance, and Tai Chi programs on FF in Japanese older adults.

Methods: FF was evaluated using a chair stand, arm curl, up and go, sit and reach, back scratch, functional reach, and 12-min walk. One hundred thirteen older adults (73 +/- 6 yr, 64 men, 49 women) volunteered for one of five exercise groups: aerobic (AER), resistance (RES), balance (BAL), flexibility (FLEX), and Tai Chi (T-CHI), or they were assigned to the wait-list control group (CON). Programs were performed for 12 wk, 2 d x wk(-1) (RES, BAL, FLEX, T-CHI) or 3 d x wk(-1) (AER), and 90 min x d(-1).

Results: Improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness was limited to AER (16%). Improvements in upper- and lower-body strength and balance/agility were outcomes of RES, BAL, and T-CHI. RES elicited the greatest upper-body strength improvement (31%), whereas BAL produced the greatest improvement in lower-body strength (40%). Improvements in balance/agility were similar across RES (10%), BAL (10%), and T-CHI (10%). Functional reach improved similarly in AER (13%), BAL (16%), and RES (15%). There were no improvements in flexibility.

Conclusion: Results suggest that a single mode with crossover effects could address multiple components of fitness. Therefore, a well-rounded exercise program may only need to consist of two types of exercise to improve the components of functional fitness. One type should be aerobic exercise, and the second type could be chosen from RES, BAL, and T-CHI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • British Columbia
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Tai Ji*
  • Walking*
  • Weight Lifting