November 9, 2012 — Despite the wealth of evidence demonstrating the benefit of exercise for older adults, physical inactivity levels remain high due to several barriers including a lack of toolkits that provide evidence-based programs.
The First Step to Active Health exercise program, which uses a red Thera-Band Exercise Band, addresses these barriers and a recent study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh validated its effectiveness.
Pamela Toto, PhD, OT, and fellow researchers tested a 10-week exercise program with 15 community-dwelling older adults from low-income households in Pittsburgh.1 “We chose the First Step to Active Health intervention because of its low-cost design, incorporation of self-efficacy-enhancing activities, and inclusion of self-assessment and goal-setting features linking the exercise program to Activity of Daily Living (ADL) measurements,” stated Toto. “We are very pleased with the results of this study that showed that the seniors significantly improved their ADL measures and functional fitness on all six components of the Senior Fitness Test.”
The exercise program included group sessions in the participants’ apartment buildings and a home exercise program component. The team employed the EASY Screening Tool to screen individuals who might be at risk for adverse events during exercise.
Each participant received a First Step to Active Health kit including a Thera-Band elastic resistance band. The exercise protocol included five to ten minutes of cardiovascular warm-up, 11 upper body and lower body strengthening exercises, six balance training exercises using a chair for support, and eight flexibility exercises as cool-down. Participants increased their sets, repetitions and resistance as the program progressed.
The study finished with 70 percent of the participants completing the First Step program and an adherence rate for the entire group at 90 percent.
“The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a well-rounded exercise program for older adults including strength, cardiovascular, flexibility and balance activities,” stated Phil Page, director of clinical education and research for Performance Health. “Thera-Band products have been successfully used in many published studies of older adult exercise programs and continue to be the go-to-product for therapists, physicians and researchers when addressing the issues of inactivity and compliance with exercise programs.”
The researchers concluded that the First Step to Active Health program can be as effective as high-intensity exercise protocols and high-cost exercise equipment.
“Our study indicates that gains in physical performance can also be achieved with low-cost equipment and an exercise program of a lower intensity, which may be more acceptable and sustainable in this population,” continued Toto. “While there was no control group and a small homogenous sample for this pilot study, the results of this study are promising for future research.”
Source: Performance Health, performancehealth.com
1Toto PE, et al. Outcomes of a multicomponent physical activity program for sedentary, community-dwelling older adults.J Aging Phys Act. 2012 Jul;20(3):363-78. Epub 2011 Dec 20.