Clinical Edge

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Comparing Group Exercise Programs in Older Adults

JAMA Intern Med; ePub 2017 Aug 14; Brach, et al

A group exercise program that focuses on the timing and coordination of movement to aid walking was more effective at improving mobility among older adults than a usual-care exercise program, a recent study found. The cluster-randomized, single-blind intervention trial included 298 participants aged ≥65 years from 32 independent living facilities, senior apartment buildings, and senior community centers who were randomized to On the Move (16 sites, n=152 participants) or usual care (16 sites; n=146 participants). Exercise classes were 50 minutes, twice a week for 12 weeks and had 10 or fewer participants per class. Participants (mean age 80 years) were mostly female (84%) and white (84%) and had a mean of 2.8 chronic conditions. Researchers found:

  • Despite lower attendance, participants in the On the Move group had greater improvements in mobility than those in the usual-care group.
  • Those in the On the Move group had greater mean improvements than the usual-care group in gait speed and 6-minute walk distance.


Brach JS, Perera S, Gilmore S, et al. Effectiveness of a timing and coordination group exercise program to improve mobility in community-dwelling older adults. A randomized clinical trial. [Published online ahead of print August 14, 2017]. JAMA Intern Med. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.3609.


Anyone who has trained with 1 type of exercise and then tried another type knows how specific training can be. This study shows that if the goal is general conditioning, then aerobic training and resistance training works well, but if the goal is improving walking ability, then a program shaped around an exercise specifically targeting the skills needed to improve walking is an important part of the approach. —Neil Skolnik, MD