Focused Exercise Program for Older Adults Improves Walking Speed and Distance

Summary and Comment |
August 29, 2017

Focused Exercise Program for Older Adults Improves Walking Speed and Distance

  1. Thomas L. Schwenk, MD

An approach that incorporates walking biomechanics and coordination was more effective than general exercise.

  1. Thomas L. Schwenk, MD

Preserving mobility in older adults is critical to maintaining independence and limiting morbidity. Group exercise programs to improve mobility typically focus on muscle strengthening and general conditioning. In this multisite randomized trial, researchers compared an exercise program called “On the Move” (OTM) with a general strengthening and aerobic exercise program (usual care) in 298 older adults (mean age, 80) who resided in independent living centers or senior housing. OTM teaches biomechanical skills, timing, and coordination through a series of stepping sequences, walking patterns, and weight-shifting exercises. In both groups, exercise was delivered twice weekly in 50-minute sessions led by physical therapy staff members.

At 12 weeks, OTM participants showed modest but significant gains in walking distance and speed. Mean 6-minute walk distance increased from 273 m to 294 m in the OTM group, compared with a mean 4-m gain in the usual-care group; corresponding gain in walking speed with OTM was 0.05 m/second (from a baseline speed of 0.9 m/second), compared with no change in usual-care participants.

Comment

The improvements here are modest, and the investment of time and effort is considerable. However, the outcomes demonstrate, once again, that older, fairly frail adults can benefit from focused and selectively designed exercise training.

Editor Disclosures at Time of Publication

  • Disclosures for Thomas L. Schwenk, MD at time of publication Editorial boards UpToDate

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