Exercise Program Combats Poor Mobility in Older Adults

By: Jessica Frezza and Courtney Caprara

To combat the issue of poor mobility in older adults, Dr. Jennifer Brach, associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, conducted a study to help find an effective way to improve walking in those aged 65 years and older.

Her study, published recently in JAMA Internal Medicine, compared a traditional seated group exercise program with a new program called On the Move©, which is conducted while standing. The seated exercise program focused on strength, endurance and flexibility. On the Move focused on the timing and coordination of movements that “tend to be more challenging for participants” and are critical for walking, Brach said.

“As adults age, walking can become more difficult, leading to impaired mobility and difficulty performing everyday tasks,” she added. “Incorporating a program like this into an older adult’s regular exercise routine has the potential to increase their mobility and their overall quality of life.”

Both groups met twice a week for 12 weeks in the independent living facilities, senior apartment buildings and senior community centers where participants attend exercise classes. The study looked for changes in gait speed, a strong indicator and predictor of disability, morbidity and mortality. At the conclusion of the study, participants in On the Move had a significantly greater improvement in gait speed than their counterparts who participated in the traditional program.

The average age of participants was 80 years old, and many had chronic conditions and impaired mobility. About 33 percent of the participants had a fear of falling or a history of falls.

In February 2018, On the Move was declared an evidence-based program by the National Council on Aging. This classification will allow community centers to utilize government funding to offer On the Move classes, which must be taught by a certified instructor. Visit the On the Move website for additional information.