Objective: To establish the effects of group exercise on mobility and strength.
Design: Randomized controlled trial.
Setting: Two public hospital outpatient rehabilitation services.
Participants: One hundred and seventy-three people (mean age 74.9 years, SD 10.8) with impaired mobility were randomized and 159 people (92%) completed the trial.
Interventions: Five-week, twice-weekly ;circuit-style' group exercise programme run by a physiotherapist (n = 85) and a no-intervention waiting list control group (n = 88).
Main outcome measures: Three aspects of mobility: balance while standing and stepping (Step Test, semi-tandem and tandem stance times); sit-to-stand ability (rate and minimum height) and gait (6-metre and 6-minute walk tests). Lower limb muscle strength (knee flexion and extension).
Results: At retest, exercise participants had improved significantly more than their control counterparts on measures of balance while stepping, sit to stand and gait. Exercise participants averaged 1.6 more steps on the 15-second Step Test (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.5 to 2.8, P=0.005), walked an average of 0.12 m/s faster (95% CI 0.05 to 0.2, P=0.002) and took 2.5 fewer steps in 6 metres (95% CI -4.2 to -0.8, P=0.004). Exercise participants also averaged 0.04 more sit-to-stands/second, (95% CI 0.003 to 0.08, P=0.037) and walked an average of 30.9 metres further in 6 minutes (95% CI 9.4 to 52.4, P=0.005). There were no clinically important or statistically significant between-group differences at retest for the measures of strength (knee extension and flexion), balance while standing or minimal sit-to-stand height.
Conclusion: This short-duration circuit class programme improved mobility, but not strength.