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Keywords:

  • exercise;
  • elderly;
  • physical function;
  • muscle strength

Objectives: To determine whether a functional-task exercise program and a resistance exercise program have different effects on the ability of community-living older people to perform daily tasks.

Design: A randomized, controlled, single-blind trial.

Setting: Community leisure center in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

Participants: Ninety-eight healthy women aged 70 and older were randomly assigned to the functional-task exercise program (function group, n=33), a resistance exercise program (resistance group, n=34), or a control group (n=31). Participants attended exercise classes three times a week for 12 weeks.

Measurements: Functional task performance (Assessment of Daily Activity Performance (ADAP)), isometric knee extensor strength (IKES), handgrip strength, isometric elbow flexor strength (IEFS), and leg extension power were measured at baseline, at the end of training (at 3 months), and 6 months after the end of training (at 9 months).

Results: The ADAP total score of the function group (mean change 6.8, 95% confidence interval (CI)=5.2–8.4) increased significantly more than that of the resistance group (3.2, 95% CI=1.3–5.0; P=.007) or the control group (0.3, 95% CI=−1.3–1.9; P<.001). Moreover, the ADAP total score of the resistance group did not change significantly compared with that of the control group. In contrast, IKES and IEFS increased significantly in the resistance group (12.5%, 95% CI=3.8–21.3 and 8.6%, 95% CI=3.1–14.1, respectively) compared with the function group (−2.1%, 95% CI=−5.4–1.3; P=.003 and 0.3%, 95% CI=−3.6–4.2; P=.03, respectively) and the control group (−2.7%, 95% CI=−8.6–3.2, P=.003 and 0.6%, 95% CI=−3.4–4.6; P=.04, respectively). Six months after the end of training, the increase in ADAP scores was sustained in the function group (P=.002).

Conclusion: Functional-task exercises are more effective than resistance exercises at improving functional task performance in healthy elderly women and may have an important role in helping them maintain an independent lifestyle.