Exercise is an effective intervention to reduce the decline in functional ability in older adults. Thera-Band elastic resistance bands have been used in several exercise studies focused on reducing disability in older adults. Japanese researchers developed a 12-month multi-component exercise program including both home-based and group-based exercise sessions. 31 older adults with low levels of disability participated in an exercise group, while 34 subjects were recruited to serve as a control group. All subjects were between 74 and 96 years old.

The 90-minute exercise sessions performed by the exercise group included flexibility, strength, endurance, and balance activities. Exercises incorporated use of elastic resistance bands and exercise balls. The exercise group performed 10 minutes of stretching and strengthening at home every day that they were not in the weekly group sessions. Download the exercise protocol here.

After the year-long program, the individuals in the exercise group increased in lower body strength and flexibility significantly more than the control group. They also maintained grip strength, gait, and mobility compared to the control group, who declined significantly in these areas. Balance did not change significantly in either group. Interestingly, however, health-related quality of life did not improve. One important finding the authors reported was that the exercise program “may prevent an increase in the need for long-term care,” noting a non-significant reduction in the need for higher levels of care. This may have important implications for the insurance and continuing care industry. With proper instruction and supervision, Thera-Band elastic resistance bands and exercise balls can be safely used as part of an exercise program for very old adults to help reduce the progression of disability.

REFERENCE: Taguchi N, Higaki Y, Inoue S, Kimura H, Tanaka K. Effects of a 12-month multicomponent exercise program on physical performance, daily physical activity, and quality of life in very elderly people with minor disabilities: an intervention study. J Epidemiol. 2010;20(1):21-9.

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