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Am J Occup Ther. 1990 Aug;44(8):714-9.

Adding purpose to the repetitive exercise of elderly women through imagery.

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Olympia Fields Osteopathic Medical Center, Illinois.


Many studies have documented the effectiveness of verbally elicited imagery in the enhancement of motor skills in young, nondisabled populations. The present study examined the effects of verbally elicited imagery in the encouragement of two exercises (i.e., reaching up to pick apples and reaching down to pick up coins) in elderly women. The subjects were 27 women between 62 and 96 years of age who were selected from a nursing home, a residential retirement home, and a foster care home. All of the subjects received imagery as well as control conditions, but in a counterbalanced fashion. The Wilcoxon matched-pairs signed rank tests indicated that the imagery condition elicited significantly more repetitions of the reaching-up exercise than did the control condition (z = 2.25, p [one-tailed] = .012). The results in the reaching-down exercise were generally in the same direction but difficult to interpret statistically. The results are discussed in terms of other recent research investigating ways to add purpose to therapeutic exercise through occupation. Clinicians are urged to explore the advantages and disadvantages of imagery-based occupations in treatment.

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