UBC Faculty Research and Publications

How much will older adults exercise? A feasibility study of aerobic training combined with resistance training Falck, Ryan S; Davis, Jennifer C; Milosevic, Elizabeth; Liu-Ambrose, Teresa


Background: Both aerobic training (AT) and resistance training (RT) have multidimensional health benefits for older adults including increased life expectancy and decreased risk of chronic diseases. However, the volume (i.e., frequency*time) of AT combined with RT in which untrained older adults can feasibly and safely participate remains unclear. Thus, our primary objective was to investigate the feasibility and safety of a high-volume exercise program consisting of twice weekly AT combined with twice weekly RT (i.e., four times weekly exercise) on a group of untrained older adults. In addition, we investigated the effects of the program on physical function, aerobic capacity, muscular strength, and explored factors related to participant adherence. Methods: We recruited eight inactive older adults (65+ years) to participate in a 6-week, single-group pre-post exercise intervention, consisting of 2 days/week of AT plus 2 days/week of progressive RT for 6 weeks. We recorded program attendance and monitored for adverse events during the course of the program. Participants were tested at both baseline and follow-up on the following: (1) physical function (i.e., timed-up-and-go test (TUG) and short physical performance battery (SPPB)), (2) aerobic capacity (VO2max) using the modified Bruce protocol; and (3) muscular strength on the leg press and lat pull-down. Post intervention, we performed qualitative semi-structured interviews of all participants regarding their experiences in the exercise program. We used these responses to examine themes that may affect continued program adherence to a high-volume exercise program. Results: We recorded an average attendance rate of 83.3% with the lowest attendance for one session being five out of eight participants; no significant adverse events occurred. Significant improvements were observed for SPPB score (1.6; 95% CI: [0.3, 2.9]), VO2max (8.8 ml/kg/min; 95% CI: [2.8, 14.8]), and lat pull-down strength (11.8 lbs; 95% CI: [3.3, 20.2]). Qualitative results revealed two themes that promote older adults’ adherence: (1) convenience of the program and (2) the social benefits of exercise. Conclusions: Our findings suggest untrained older adults can be successful at completing twice weekly AT combined with twice weekly progressive RT; however, these exercise programs should be group-based in order to maintain high adherence.

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