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Strength Training in Older Adults: An Empowering Intervention


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: January 2006 - Volume 38 - Issue 1 - p 106-111
doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000183373.95206.2f
Symposium: Functional Health: Innovations in Research on Physical Activity in Older Adults

Purpose: This study evaluated the benefits of adding a psychological empowerment intervention (PEI) to traditional strength training (TST) on social cognitive variables in community-dwelling older adults.

Methods: Thirty-eight participants were randomly assigned to either a PEI or a TST intervention for 6 wk. Before random assignment and following training, participants completed measures of self-efficacy for upper and lower body strength as well as the desire to be able to lift specific amounts of weight. Both treatments involved two sessions per week of center-based training and one session per week of home-based training. The PEI condition also included a group-mediated intervention that was designed to increase self-efficacy for physical strength and the desire for upper and lower body strength.

Results: General linear models on difference scores revealed that the two groups experienced differential gains in the desire for upper body strength (P = 0.023, effect size (ES) = 0.79) and were marginally different in gains for upper body strength self-efficacy (P = 0.065, ES = 0.63). On a four-point scale, the adjusted mean (±SE) differences for the PEI group on the desire for upper body strength was 0.71 (±0.12) as compared to 0.27 (±0.13) for the TST group, whereas the PEI group's improvement in self-efficacy for upper body strength was 25.70 (±3.02) as compared to 17.18 (±3.19) for the TST group.

Conclusions: Empowerment-based exercise programs may be particularly motivating for older adults by creating a more meaningful physical activity experience for them.

1Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC; and 2East Carolina University, Greenville, NC

Address for correspondence: Jeffrey A. Katula, Ph.D., MA, PO Box 7868, Reynolda Station, Winston-Salem, NC 27109; E-mail:

Submitted for publication November 2004.

Accepted for publication July 2005.

Support for this paper was provided by National Institute on Aging Grant AG14131 and 5P60 AG10484 and General Clinical Research Center Grant M01-RR00211.

©2006The American College of Sports Medicine