Many studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of Thera-Band® exercise programs in older adults including significant improvements in “functional fitness” including strength, balance, mobility, and gait speed. Researchers in Japan, led by Dr. Nobuo Takeshima have been evaluating the effects of “well-rounded exercise programs” using Thera-Band elastic bands and Stability Trainers in older adults for many years.
Most recently, Dr. Takeshima and his colleagues wanted to compare fitness outcomes of a Thera-Band group exercise program with 2 walking group interventions: “Nordic Walking” and conventional walking. Nordic walking involves the use of specially designed walking poles. 65 healthy older adults were randomly assigned to one of the 3 experimental groups or a non-exercising control group. Their ages averaged 68-70 years old.
The Thera-Band group exercised with supervision twice a week for 12 weeks, strengthening all major muscle groups in 1-hour sessions. The participants progressed their resistance by Thera-Band colors as they were able to complete 20 repetitions. The participants used the Borg Scale to gauge their resistance training intensity as “moderate”.
The walking groups performed supervised walking classes 3 times a week for 12 weeks for approximately 1 hour per day. They also used the Borg Scale and a heart-rate monitor to measure their training intensity. One group used Nordic walking poles while the conventional group did not.
All subjects were tested before and after the 12-week program for upper and lower body strength, flexibility, gait speed, mobility, and balance. The researchers found that the Thera-Band exercise group gained significantly more lower body and upper body strength (21-23%) than the walking or control groups, noting a rather large effect size (.95 and 1.15). The Thera-Band group also significantly improved in flexibility compared to the control group, although not significantly more than the walking groups. As expected, the walking groups demonstrated significantly more improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness (+11%) compared to the Thera-Band group (+3%). No groups improved in balance.
These results support the concept of ‘specificity of training’, where improvements are specific to the training. For example, the walking group performed predominantly cardiovascular exercise, thus improving more than other groups in cardiorespiratory fitness. The authors noted that Nordic walking offered a more well-rounded benefit to conventional walking because of the group improvements in strength, flexibility, and cardiorespiratory fitness.
In summary, a 12-week group exercise program with progressive Thera-Band resistance exercises significantly increases strength and flexibility in older adults, while walking also improves cardiorespiratory fitness.
REFERENCE: Takeshima N, et al. Effects of Nordic walking compared to conventional walking and band-based resistance exercise on fitness in older adults. J Sports Sci Med. 2013. In Press.