Gym in a DVD

At home exercise program improved strength and flexibility in older adults

(RxWiki News) When a gym is not available or is difficult to get to, older adults don't have to go far to get the same exercise support and results.

A six-month exercise program on DVD complemented with basic equipment and supportive phone calls increased overall fitness in older adults, a new study found.

By enabling participants to exercise at home, individuals increased their flexibility and strength in certain parts of their bodies with specialized instruction and follow-up support.

"Try an exercise program at home."

The study, led by Edward McAuley, PhD, from the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, looked at how well a new, home-based exercise program helped older adults with their balance, flexibility and muscle tone.

More than 300 adults who were at least 65 years of age were included in the study. The participants, who were primarily female, were recruited from towns across Illinois and were doing no more than 30 minutes of physical activity two days a week for the six months before the study.

Half the participants were assigned to the DVD exercise program, called FlexToBa, which contained six months of fitness training, a couple of resistance bands and a yoga mat.

The members of this group were encouraged to exercise at least three times a week with the DVDs and progress to the next session every month. 

To compare results, the rest of the participants received a DVD called "Healthy Aging" and were instructed to continue with their normal day-to-day activities.

Both groups received supportive phone calls with exercise tips every other week for the first two months, and then once a month for the rest of the study.

Participants logged how much they exercised each day and sent the responses to researchers who measured participants' performance using the Short Physical Performance Battery, a measure of physical function.

The battery covers leg strength, walking speed and balance according to gender, age and where participants lived. Researchers did not know which participants received which exercise program.

Researchers found that participants with the FlexToBa DVD workout had significant improvements in their upper body strength, lower body flexibility and overall Short Physical Performance Battery scores compared to the other group and over the course of the study.

Participants in the other group scored lower on the battery tests and became less flexible over time.

"This study demonstrates the feasibility, acceptability, and efficacy of delivering regularly scheduled exercise focusing on older adults via the medium of DVD," researchers wrote in their report. "As such, this novel intervention is capable of reaching participants from outlying geographical areas who typically would not be able to attend center-based activity trials conducted at university or medical centers."

Serious knee pain from preexisting conditions occurred among four participants given the FlexToBa workout. Five other adverse events unrelated to the study also occurred in the same group.

The authors noted a few limitations to their study. More than three-quarters of the participants were female, few minorities were involved and the FlexToBa program lasted only six months.

Future studies, the researchers wrote, should include more men and ethnic groups over an extended period of time.

The study, which was funded by the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health, was published February 13 in the Journals of Gerontology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 24, 2013