Changes in Physical Functioning in the Active Living Every Day Program of the Active for Life Initiative

Low levels of physical functioning among older adults are associated with subsequent disability, mobility limitations, falls, hospitalization, requirement of a caregiver, nursing home admissions and mortality.

To counter this and increase physical activity, as part of the Active for Life Initiative, the Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio implemented the Active Living Every Day (ALED) group-based behavior change program. The lifestyle and physical activity intervention teaches participants how to become and remain physically active.

Over four years, ALED tested whether diverse participants in the 20-week program (in year four, a 12-week program) showed increases in physical activity. Participants were weighed and measured and assessed at baseline for physical activity and physical functioning through a number of tests that assessed lower body strength and flexibility, agility and balance, and walking ability.

Participants experienced significant improvements in all performance-based physical function tests after completing the program that encouraged them to increase moderate to vigorous physical activity to 30 minutes each day. Participants who were classified as impaired at baseline showed much greater improvements in physical function across body mass index categories and race/ethnicity.

The findings support the appropriateness of late life physical activity to reverse the debilitating effects of functional impairments.