Exercise, body composition, and functional ability: a randomized controlled trial

Am J Prev Med. 2010 Mar;38(3):279-87. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2009.10.042.


Context: In women, age and the menopausal transition contribute to an increase of body fat and a reduction of lean body mass associated with functional decline, affecting independent living.

Background: Sarcopenia and adiposity in the elderly has been associated with increased mortality and functional decline affecting independent living.

Purpose: This study was conducted to determine the effect of a multipurpose exercise program on the body composition and functional ability of elderly women living in a community.

Design: An 18-month single-blinded RCT comparing participants in an exercise program with an active control group was conducted from May 2005 through December 2007. Analyses were conducted from January 2008 to July 2008.

Setting/participants: Two hundred forty-six women (aged 69.1+/-4.0 years) living independently in the area of Erlangen-Nürnberg (Germany) participated in the study.

Intervention: Subjects (n=123) performed a multipurpose exercise program with special emphasis on exercise intensity but with low-level requirements for training facilities and materials. The 123 women in the control group focused primarily on well-being.

Main outcome measures: Body composition was assessed by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. Further, strength was evaluated using isometric techniques for the back and legs. Aerobic fitness was determined from a progressive-intensity treadmill test.

Results: After 18 months, significant effects in favor of the exercise program for body composition were increases in appendicular skeletal muscle mass and lean body mass along with reductions in abdominal fat and total body fat. Significant performance effects also favored the exercise program and included enhanced isometric maximum trunk-extensor and leg press strength, leg press power, timed up-and-go test, and aerobic fitness.

Conclusions: A high-intensity multipurpose exercise program produced significant improvements in body composition and functional ability in a cohort of elderly women living in a community.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00267839.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Fat / metabolism
  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Adiposity / physiology
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging
  • Body Composition*
  • Exercise Test
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Sarcopenia / therapy
  • Single-Blind Method

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00267839