Is A ‘One-size-fits-all’ Approach Suitable For Physical Activity And Exercise Prescription In Older People?

Hollie Speer, Andrew Mckune, Johan van Heerden

Research output: Contribution to conference (non-published works)Abstractpeer-review


Aging is a complex physiological process involving many variables that greatly influence the biological conditions in which we age. Increased lifespan and coincident increased prevalence of age-related diseases urges the need to identify and prescribe favourable lifestyle interventions that contribute to aging healthily, relative to a person’s existing health and fitness status.
PURPOSE: This retrospective study determines the health and fitness status of a cohort of sedentary, older people living at home, as assessed before a physical activity intervention programme.
METHODS: Data from a Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment Questionnaire conducted by a home care service agency in peri-urban Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa were analysed. The cohort consisted of older people aged 55 - 94, inclusive of 313 males (72 yrs ± 7.2) and 319 females (71 yrs ± 8.3). Fitness status was determined from cardiorespiratory (CR) fitness (6 min walk) and the Berg Balance Test. Health status was determined from body mass index, resting heart rate and blood pressure (BP), fasting glucose, haemoglobin (Hb) concentration and self-reported central nervous system, cardiorespiratory and musculoskeletal symptoms. Sex differences relating to fitness, health status and self-reported symptoms were examined using a two-sample Wilcoxon rank-sum (Mann-Whitney) test and Chi-Square tests, respectively. Fitness and health variables were examined using Spearman’s rank correlation test. All significance levels were set as α ≤ 0.05.
RESULTS: Sex-specific differences were found for cardiorespiratory fitness (M; 275.13 m ± 188.9, F; 241.58 m ± 162.4, p = 0.02), diastolic BP (M; 82 mmHg ±12.4, F; 80 mmHg ±11.2, p = 0.04) and Hb concentration (M; 13.32 g/dL ± 1.7, F; 12.33 g/dL ± 1.4, p < 0.0001), as well as self-reported symptoms. Significant moderate correlations were found between age and balance (r = -0.31), CR fitness and balance (r = 0.43), and CR fitness and Hb concentration (r = 0.43).
CONCLUSIONS: Health and fitness status of older people is important to consider prior to implementation of an intervention programme. The results indicate sex-specific differences and functional decrements with age, which should be considered when prescribing exercise or physical activity to improve health and fitness in an aging population.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023


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