Benefits of exercise lead to further activity in elderly

The benefits of regular exercise are powerful motivators for the elderly to continue a physical activity regimen, according to a new study.

"It is possible that perceiving benefits in fitness outcomes, such as appearance and weight, communicates to participants that they have been successful in their exercise regimen," says Glenn S. Brassington, Ph.D., of the Stanford Center for Research in Disease Prevention. "This perception may build their confidence that they can be successful in the future."

The researchers assessed exercise-related self-efficacy, defined as a person's confidence that he or she can successfully engage in an exercise program, of 103 elderly people over the age of 65. The study is published in a supplement to the August American Journal of Preventive Medicine on physical activity.

When exercise self-efficacy was measured before the participants started an exercise program, it did not predict which participants would stick with their regimen. But, when measured as a function of improvements seen during early participation in the program, exercise self-efficacy did predict who would still be exercising a year later.

"These results indicate that how confident one is when one starts an exercise program is less important than how one's confidence grows as the result of positive outcomes experienced through exercise over time," Brassington explains.

The elderly participants were prescribed weekly exercise regimens including two classes and two home sessions a week. Participants were assigned to one of two exercise classes. One was designed to improve cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength and the other to improve flexibility. They also received regular telephone counseling calls, during which study interviews were conducted.

Improved fitness and appearance, weight loss, increased energy and better eating habits realized through their exercise regimens motivated the participants to continue with an exe

Contact: Ruthann Richter
Center for the Advancement of Health

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