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J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 1999 Dec;54(12):M621-8.

A randomized outcome evaluation of group exercise programs in long-term care institutions.

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The Centre for Activity and Ageing, The University of Western Ontario, London, Canada.



Physical activity programs in nursing homes typically consist of seated, range of motion (ROM) exercises, regardless of resident abilities. The Functional Fitness for Long-Term Care (FFLTC) Program was designed not only to maintain ROM, but also to improve strength, balance, flexibility, mobility, and function. In addition, it was tailored to meet the needs of both high and low mobility residents.


The feasibility and efficacy of the FFLTC Program were evaluated with 68 residents (mean age 80) from five institutions. Persons were classified as low or high mobility and randomized into either the FFLTC program or a seated ROM program. Classes were conducted in groups of 4 to 10 residents by trained facility staff for 45 minutes, three times per week. Assessments at baseline and 4 months consisted of mobility, balance, gait, flexibility, functional capacity, and several upper and lower extremity strength measures.


Attendance averaged 86% for the FFLTC and 79% for the ROM classes. Four months of exercise led to significant improvements in mobility (16%), balance (9%), flexibility (36%), knee (55%), and hip (12%) strength for the FFLTC group. Shoulder strength was the only improvement found for the ROM group. The ROM group significantly deteriorated in some areas, particularly hip strength, mobility, and functional ability.


Institutionalized seniors, even those who are physically frail, incontinent and/or have mild dementia, can respond positively to a challenging exercise program. The FFLTC program demonstrated clear benefits over typical, seated ROM exercises. Moreover, with minimal training, the program can be safely delivered at low cost by institutional staff and volunteers.

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