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J Nutr Health Aging. 2006 Jan-Feb;10(1):21-9.

Effectiveness of a community based low intensity exercise program for older adults.

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  • 1MRC/UCT Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Cape Town and Chronic Diseases of Lifestyle Unit, South Africa.



The aim of this study was to assess the effectiveness of a community-based, low-intensity exercise programme in older adults from socio-economically and historically disadvantaged communities.


Three community centres were selected: two were allocated to the same 20-week, twice-weekly exercise program (EX1, n=38; EX2, n=32); and a third to relaxation classes (control/CTL; n=21). Measurements at baseline, 10 and 20 weeks included field tests for anthropometry, static and dynamic balance, gait, upper and lower body strength, 6-minute walk test, blood pressure, activities of daily living (ADL), instrumental activities of daily living (IADL), physical activity recall and self perceived health status.


Exercise training significantly improved dynamic balance in both groups (75.1+/-31.5 vs 55.3+/-13.6 s, and 53.3+/-17.0 vs 37.0+/-10.4 s, for EX1 and EX2, respectively, p < 0.001 compared to CTL (57+/-27 vs 53+/-15 s). Lower body strength, as measured by the number of sit-to-stand repetitions in 10 s was also significantly improved in both EX1 and EX2 (p<0.001). No significant changes occurred in the CTL group. Systolic blood pressure decreased in both EX1 and EX2 from baseline to 20 weeks (147.8+/-12.8 vs 143.9+/-3.3 mmHg and 143.0+/-13.9 vs 137.4+/-14.5 mmHg, respectively, p<0.009, compared to CTL (147+/-13 to 150+/-16 mmHg). Furthermore, in a sub sample of subjects who were hypertensive at the outset, exercise intervention was associated with a significant decrease in systolic blood pressure (n=26; 146+/-14 mmHg to 140+/-14 mmHg; p=0.005). Variables unaffected by exercise training were upper body strength, body composition and fat distribution, 20 m walk, cardiovascular endurance, time spent in recreational activities, self perceived health status and ADL.


A community-based, low intensity exercise programme improved dynamic balance and lower body strength in community dwelling older adults and improved blood pressure, particularly in those who were hypertensive.

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