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    First Step to Active Health® Exercise Program Improves Functional Fitness of Older Adults

    Low cost Thera-Band® exercise program as effective as high-intensity exercise protocols and high-cost equipment.

    Despite the wealth of evidence demonstrating the benefit of exercise for older adults, physical inactivity levels remain high due to several barriers including a lack of toolkits that provide evidence-based programs. The First Step to Active Health® exercise program, which uses a red Thera-Band® Exercise Band, addresses these barriers and a recent study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh validated its effectiveness.

    Pamela Toto, PhD, OT, and fellow researchers tested a ten-week exercise program with 15 community-dwelling older adults from low-income households in Pittsburgh(1). “We chose the First Step to Active Health intervention because of its low-cost design, incorporation of self-efficacy-enhancing activities, and inclusion of self-assessment and goal-setting features linking the exercise program to Activity of Daily Living (ADL) measurements,” stated Dr. Toto. “We are very pleased with the results of this study that showed that the seniors significantly improved their ADL measures and functional fitness on all six components of the Senior Fitness Test.”

    The exercise program included group sessions in the participants’ apartment buildings and a home exercise program component. The team employed the EASY Screening Tool to screen individuals who might be at risk for adverse events during exercise. Each participant received a First Step to Active Health kit including a Thera-Band elastic resistance band.  The exercise protocol included five to ten minutes of cardiovascular warm-up, 11 upper body and lower body strengthening exercises, six balance training exercises using a chair for support, and eight flexibility exercises as cool-down. Participants increased their sets, repetitions and resistance as the program progressed.

    The study finished with 70% percent of the participants completing the First Step program and an adherence rate for the entire group at 90%.

    “The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a well-rounded exercise program for older adults including strength, cardiovascular, flexibility and balance activities,” stated Dr. Phil Page, Director of Clinical Education and Research for Performance Health. “Thera-Band products have been successfully used in many published studies of older adult exercise programs and continue to be the go-to-product for therapists, physicians and researchers when addressing the issues of inactivity and compliance with exercise programs.”

    The researchers concluded that the First Step to Active Health program can be as effective as high-intensity exercise protocols and high-cost exercise equipment. “Our study indicates that gains in physical performance can also be achieved with low-cost equipment and an exercise program of a lower intensity, which may be more acceptable and sustainable in this population,” continued Toto. “While there was no control group and a small homogenous sample for this pilot study, the results of this study are promising for future research.”

    About the Academy

    The Thera-Band® Academy was formed to scientifically document the benefits of resistance exercise and pain relief, guide the company in its development of new products and exercise programs, and to promote therapeutic exercise and pain management through professional and consumer education. The Academy web site is a unique resource that connects healthcare professionals and consumers to the ever growing body of knowledge on exercise. Registration is free and provides access to the largest database of rehab exercises, protocols, research and education in the world.

    About Performance Health

    Featuring leading brands like Thera-Band®, Biofreeze® and Pedigenix®, Performance Health offers a broad portfolio of products for the therapy, rehabilitation, wellness, massage, podiatric and performance markets. In addition to market-leading products, Performance Health provides practice building support, evidence-based protocols, clinical and product education, turn-key dispensing and pain management solutions.

    Additional Information

    Senior Fitnes Test - The Senior Fitness Test manual as developed as part of the LifeSpan Wellness Program at Fullerton University, by Dr. Roberta Rikli and Dr. Jessie Jones. As such, the test is sometimes known as the Fullerton Functional Test. It is a simple, easy-to-use battery of test items that assess the functional fitness of older adults. The test describes easy to understand and effective tests to measure aerobic fitness, strength and flexibility using minimal and inexpensive equipment.

    EASY Screening Tool - The development of EASY Screening Tool was recommended by participants attending a Roundtable Meeting on the Role of Pre-Activity Participation Screening in Older Adults held March 2005 in Washington DC. Several multidisciplinary experts worked together to translate existing science into a practical tool that could be used by health care providers, older adults, and physical activity program managers.

    1. Toto PE, et al. Outcomes of a multicomponent physical activity program for sedentary, community-dwelling older adults.J Aging Phys Act. 2012 Jul;20(3):363-78. Epub 2011 Dec 20.


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