It’s been well-established that exercise has numerous health benefits, yet it is only relatively recently that exercise has been shown safe and effective at improving health and quality of life in older adults.

Recent recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and American College of Sports Medicine include strengthening exercises for older adults at least twice a week. Strength training can improve muscular strength, power and endurance in older adults. In addition, strength training can increase bone mass or decrease bone mass loss which is particularly important in women with osteoporosis. Falls in osteoporotic women in particular often lead to fractures of the hip, back, and arm.

Researchers in Germany set out to determine if a well-rounded exercise program that included Thera-Band® resistance bands would be effective at increasing bone density, decreasing falls, and improving cardiovascular risk factors in older women. In the study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 246 women over 65 years old were randomly assigned to either a high-intensity/low volume “well-rounded” exercise program, or a low-intensity “wellness” exercise control group. The 18 month exercise program included 2 group sessions per week and 2 home-based sessions per week.

The well-rounded exercise group protocol included cardiovascular warm-up exercises, upper body strengthening exercise using Thera-Band bands, unilateral lower extremity weight-bearing exercises, stretching, and balance exercises. The control group performed low-level cardiorespiratory exercises and a variety of activities designed not to cause physical adaptations.

At the end of the 1 ½ year exercise program, the strengthening group using Thera-Band bands significantly improved in bone density compared to the control group. They also experienced 50% fewer falls than the control group. Both groups improved their cardiovascular disease risk factors, but the well-rounded exercise group reduced their risk nearly twice as much as the control group. Interestingly, there was no significant difference in costs for either program, although the healthcare costs per participant was higher in the control group.

Reference: Kemmler W, et al. Exercise effects on bone mineral density, falls, coronary risk factors, and health care costs in older women: the randomized controlled senior fitness and prevention (SEFIP) study. Arch Intern Med. 2010 Jan 25;170(2):179-85.

Disclaimer: Thera-Band Academy supplied the bands for the study, but did not provide any financial support.

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