The effects of a structured group exercise program on functional fitness of older persons living in old age homes within the eThekwini Municipality, South Africa.
Aim: The study aimed to determine the effects of a structured group exercise program on functional fitness of older persons living in five old age homes within the eThekwini Municipality of South Africa. Population: The study population comprised men and women aged 60 years and older, who reside in an old age home within the eThekwini Municipality. Design: A quasi-experimental design was used to compare the effect of a 12 week group exercise program on two groups of participants using pre-test post-test procedures. Methodology: Twenty participants each were selected from five old age homes. Participants were randomly allocated into either an experimental group or a comparison group at each site. The experimental group participated in the exercise intervention three times weekly for 12 weeks, while the comparison group received the same intervention twice weekly for 12 weeks. The prescribed intervention was guided by the recommendations outlined by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and American Heart Association (AHA) respectively. It comprised of warm-up, balance, endurance, resistance and cool-down components. Assessments of upper and lower body strength and flexibility, aerobic endurance, agility and balance were conducted before and after the intervention using the Senior Functional Fitness Test. Data was analysed using Microsoft Excel 2013 and Statistical Package for Social Sciences version 20.1. Results: Comparisons of baseline and post-intervention measures showed greater improvements in upper and lower body strength and flexibility, as well as aerobic endurance capacity (p < 0.05). But, no improvements were observed in participant’s agility and balance levels. With regards to training frequency, no significant difference in functional fitness measures was observed between both groups following the 12 week intervention program. Conclusion: Twelve weeks of multifaceted group exercise training, at least two times per week can be used as an effective strategy to promote functional fitness in the elderly population.