Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Contribution of Structured Exercise Class Participation and Informal Walking for Exercise to Daily Physical Activity in Community-Dwelling Older Adults. (Research Note-Epidemiology)

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Contribution of Structured Exercise Class Participation and Informal Walking for Exercise to Daily Physical Activity in Community-Dwelling Older Adults. (Research Note-Epidemiology)

Article excerpt

Key words: evaluation, measurement, pedometer, steps/day

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The benefits of physical activity for older adults are well known. A traditional strategy to increase physical activity has been to promote exercise, either formally (e.g., structured exercise classes) or informally (e.g., "home-based" exercises or a self-initiated walking regimen regardless of setting). To clarify, physical activity is "any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure," whereas exercise is a subcategory of physical activity defined as planned, structured movement undertaken to improve or maintain one or more aspects of physical fitness" (Caspersen, Powell, & Christenson, 1985).

We know little about the relative contribution of exercise (formal or informal) to older adults' total daily physical activity Part of the problem has been our inability to capture adequately all forms of physical activity using questionnaires (Ainsworth, Sternfeld, Slattery, Daguise, & Zahm, 1998; Tudor-Locke & Myers, 2001a). Teasing apart the various segments of physical activity requires a sensitive and objective measurement approach. Only three relevant studies have attempted to separate physical activity into its contributory components of which exercise is one.

To examine the effects of an 8-week vigorous (up to 85% of maximal functional capacity) exercise program on energy expenditure due to physical activity, Goran and Poehlman (1992) used doubly labeled water (prior to and during the last week of training). They found no change in total energy expenditure after 8 weeks (for measures taken during the training program compared to prior to training), despite good compliance to the exercise regimen. The authors hypothesized that their observation was due to a compensatory decline in physical activity during the remainder of the day, possibly influenced by the relatively high intensity of the training program. Unfortunately, doubly labeled water does not allow for firm conclusions to be made about physical activity on a day-to-day basis. Meijer, Westerterp, and Verstappen (1999) used a triaxial accelerometer in their training study to isolate physical activity due to exercise class participation, distinct from the remainder of the day, and from nonexercise days. They found evidence to support the idea that middle-aged and older adults reduced their participation in nonexercise physical activity on exercise days and hypothesized that this was a strategy to save energy.

Both of these studies recruited nonexercisers into an unfamiliar behavior. We do not know if either group gave up other activities to adopt this temporary exercise behavior or if they were instructed to maintain their lives as usual. In the latter study, merely correcting for time in structured exercise by subtracting class time from the day's total deletes an hour or more of an individual's time that may have been spent in other pursuits. Conclusions about differences in activity undertaken on exercise and nonexercise days in the Meijer et al. (1999) study may be biased; exercise days would be reduced by 1 hr of potential active time.

In an observational study of habitual exercisers, Washburn and Flicker (1999) used an uniaxial accelerometer to compare a single exercise day with a nonexercise day. They also corrected for physical activity due to participation in an exercise class by subtraction. They found no difference is this brief monitoring frame. None of the studies above attempted to collect information on participation in exercise outside of the structured class.

It has been suggested recently that a combination of objective physical activity monitoring using a pedometer, combined with a self-report method, might lead to improved understanding (Kriska, 2000). The purpose of this study was to describe the physical activity and exercise habits of a convenience sample of independent-living older adults who regularly attended a structured exercise program at the Canadian Center for Activity and Aging (Ecciestone, Myers, & Paterson, 1998). …

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