Five-year performance trends for older exercisers: a hierarchical model of endurance, strength, and flexibility.
OBJECTIVE: To examine 5-year trends in measures of physical performance, and the impact of disease upon performance, in three domains: cardiovascular fitness, musculo-skeletal strength, and flexibility among older adults participating in a medically supervised exercise program. DESIGN: Longitudinal analyses of data obtained in an observational cohort study. SETTING: Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. PARTICIPANTS: Seventy-three community-dwelling veterans between 64 and 90 years of age. INTERVENTION: Voluntary participation in a medically supervised outpatient exercise program meeting 3 days per week for 90 minutes per session. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Changes over time in cardiovascular fitness, musculoskeletal strength, and flexibility. RESULTS: Forty-nine percent of the original study participants remained in the program for a full 5 years. They had lower baseline rates of cardiorespiratory and musculoskeletal diseases than did the dropouts. Dropouts were significantly more impaired in baseline measures of cardiovascular fitness (P = .038) and strength (P = .007). Changes over time for cardiovascular fitness and strength were similar. Only linear (P < .05) and quadratic time (P < .001) were significant. Only linear time was significant for measures of flexibility (P < .05). Baseline cardiorespiratory disease, baseline musculoskeletal disease, and interaction terms were not significant. Overall, measures of physical performance demonstrated gradual improvement for 2 to 3 years, followed by a gradual decline in performance irrespective of baseline disease status. CONCLUSION: Older adults who exercise regularly, including those with multiple chronic diseases, can achieve significant gains in measures of physical performance, and these gains can be sustained for 2 to 3 years.
Morey, MC; Pieper, CF; Sullivan, RJ; Crowley, GM; Cowper, PA; Robbins, MS
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