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Effects of Aerobic Exercise Training in Community-Based Subjects Aged 80 and Older: A Pilot Study


Address correspondence to Peter V. Vaitkevicius, MD, VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System/GRECC (11G), 2215 Fuller Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48105. E-mail:


OBJECTIVES: To assess the ability of sedentary, frail subjects aged 80 and older to train in a community-based exercise program and to evaluate clinical factors that predict improvements in peak oxygen consumption (VO2peak).

DESIGN: Pretest, posttest.

SETTING: Charlestown Retirement Community, Catonsville, Maryland

PARTICIPANTS: Twenty-two (11 male, 11 female; mean age ± standard deviation = 84 ± 4.0, range 80–92) self-referred.

INTERVENTION: Six months of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise training, two to three sessions/week, 20 to 30 minutes per session. Training modes included treadmill walking and/or stationary cycling.

MEASUREMENTS: Baseline and follow-up maximal exercise treadmill tests (ETTs) with electrocardiogram monitoring and respiratory gas analysis.

RESULTS: Six months of aerobic exercise training resulted in significant increases (mean ± standard deviation) in ETT duration (11.9 ± 3.3 vs 15.9 ± 4.3 minutes; P = .01), VO2peak (1.23 ± 0.37 vs 1.31 ± 0.36 L/min; P = .04), and oxygen pulse (9.3 ± 2.8 vs 10.1 ± 3.2; P = .03). Mean heart rate was significantly lower during submaximal ETT stages 1 through 4 (P < .05), and resting systolic blood pressure decreased (146 ± 18 vs 133 ± 14 mmHg; P = .01) after training. Multiple regression analysis indicated that baseline VO2peak (r = 0.75, P = .002) and the total amount of time spent in exercise training (r = 0.55, P = .008) were independent predictors of the training-related improvements in VO2peak.

CONCLUSION: Subjects aged 80 and older can increase aerobic capacity and reduce systolic blood pressure in a community-based exercise program of moderate intensity. The most important predictors of change in VO2peak were baseline VO2peak and the time spent in exercise training. Subjects with a lower baseline VO2peak had the greatest improvements in VO2peak after training.