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Functional Fitness Gain Varies in Older Adults Depending on Exercise Mode


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: November 2007 - Volume 39 - Issue 11 - p 2036-2043
doi: 10.1249/mss.0b013e31814844b7
APPLIED SCIENCES: Physical Fitness and Performance

Various exercise modes are available to improve functional fitness (FF) in older adults. However, information on the comparative capability of different exercise modes to improve FF is insufficient.

Purpose: To compare the effects of aerobic, resistance, flexibility, balance, and Tai Chi programs on FF in Japanese older adults.

Methods: FF was evaluated using a chair stand, arm curl, up and go, sit and reach, back scratch, functional reach, and 12-min walk. One hundred thirteen older adults (73 ± 6 yr, 64 men, 49 women) volunteered for one of five exercise groups: aerobic (AER), resistance (RES), balance (BAL), flexibility (FLEX), and Tai Chi (T-CHI), or they were assigned to the wait-list control group (CON). Programs were performed for 12 wk, 2 d·wk−1 (RES, BAL, FLEX, T-CHI) or 3 d·wk−1 (AER), and 90 min·d−1.

Results: Improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness was limited to AER (16%). Improvements in upper- and lower-body strength and balance/agility were outcomes of RES, BAL, and T-CHI. RES elicited the greatest upper-body strength improvement (31%), whereas BAL produced the greatest improvement in lower-body strength (40%). Improvements in balance/agility were similar across RES (10%), BAL (10%), and T-CHI (10%). Functional reach improved similarly in AER (13%), BAL (16%), and RES (15%). There were no improvements in flexibility.

Conclusion: Results suggest that a single mode with crossover effects could address multiple components of fitness. Therefore, a well-rounded exercise program may only need to consist of two types of exercise to improve the components of functional fitness. One type should be aerobic exercise, and the second type could be chosen from RES, BAL, and T-CHI.

1Graduate School of Natural Sciences, Nagoya City University, Nagoya, JAPAN; 2School of Community Affairs Gerontology Program, Wichita State University, Wichita, KS; 3Center for Physical Activity and Aging, Department of Human Performance Studies, Wichita State University, Wichita, KS

Address for correspondence: Nobuo Takeshima, Ph.D., Laboratory of Exercise Gerontology, Graduate School of Natural Sciences, Nagoya City University, 1 Mizuho-cho, Mizuho-ku, Nagoya 467-8502, Japan; E-mail:

Submitted for publication October 2006.

Accepted for publication June 2007.

©2007The American College of Sports Medicine