Functional physical limitations are a significant risk factor for older adults, as they can lead to isolation, frailty, and increased risk for falls. Exercise training, particularly exercise that focuses on strength and flexibility, has been shown to be an effective means for improving physical function and reducing the risk of functional limitations and physical disability.
However, it is difficult to disseminate exercise interventions in an effective, cost-efficient manner, which only exacerbates the high rate of physical inactivity among older adults. A group of researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign tested the effectiveness of a home-based, low-cost DVD exercise program designed to improve strength, flexibility, and balance among older adults.
Participants were recruited through local media in the central Illinois area. To be eligible for the study, participants had to have a low rate of physical activity, and be physically capable of completing an exercise program without medical risk. A total of 307 participants were randomly assigned either the exercise program or a general health information DVD which was used as a control condition.
The majority of participants completed the six-month DVD trial program, with around 75 percent of those in the exercise group adhering to the program. Rates of satisfaction with the program were high, with 88.5 percent reporting that they were satisfied or completely satisfied. Four participants experienced an adverse event related to the research, which were all related to the exacerbation of previously existing knee pain.
Participants in the exercise program had statistically significant improvements in upper body strength, lower limb flexibility, and overall physical performance. These findings suggest that video exercise programs may be a way to increase the physical activity and improve the physical function of healthy but relatively inactive older adults.
McAuley E, Wójcicki TR, Gothe NP, et al. Effects of a DVD-delivered exercise intervention on physical function in older adults. Journals of Gerontology Series A: Medical Sciences (2013); DOI:10.1093/Gerona/glt014