The association between physical activity, functional fitness and balance in senior citizens / Volschenk A.
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During the past decades there has been an increase in longevity. These aging trends have an enormous economic impact and present challenges to policymakers, families, and health care providers to meet the needs of aging individuals. Aging is accompanied with various physiological changes that can limit the elderly’s functional status and their independency. Some of the most noticeable changes occur within the musculoskeletal system, however cardiorespiratory changes, as well as changes in the body composition limits the elderly’s aerobic capacity and therefore increases the risk for cardiovascular and hypokinetic diseases. Moderate physical activity reduces the risk, or prolong the onset of physiological changes and various diseases. Physical activity can also enhance functional fitness amongst the elderly. Functional fitness is having the physiologic capacity to perform normal everyday activities safely and independently without undue fatigue. The aim of this study was to determine the functional fitness as well as static balance and dynamic balance status of senior citizens. Secondly, to determine the association between: physical activity, aerobic endurance and functional fitness and status amongst senior citizens. Thirdly, to determine the association between physical activity status, aerobic endurance and static– and dynamic balance amongst elderly. A once off subject availability study was performed, and 58 senior citizens (32 females and 26 males) between the ages of 65 years and 96 years participated. The physical activity index was determined with the Sharkey and Gaskill Physical activity index questionnaire. Functional fitness was measured using the Rikli and Jones Fullerton’s functional fitness test protocol. The static balance and dynamic balance was tested with the one leg balance eyes closed and functional reach test respectively. Descriptive statistics were used to describe the status of the participants. Two way summary tables were used to categorize the amount of weak test results. Partial correlations were used to determine the association between physical activity, functional fitness and static and dynamic balance. The male participants’ functional fitness status compared well with USA normal ranges, however the functional fitness test scores of the female participants were even lower than the older age group (75 to 79 years) of the USA normal ranges. The results of the frequency distribution indicated that 80.77% and 68.75% of the male and female participants respectively, tested poorly in more than four of the functional fitness tests. Neither the male nor the female participants’ static balance score were adequate, although it does not indicate a fall risk. Aerobic endurance showed to have medium (r = 0.3–0.49) to high (r 0.5) partial correlation with all functional fitness tests for the total group, as well as in the female participants. In the male participants aerobic endurance only showed high correlation (r 0.5) with lower body strength and dynamic balance and agility. Dynamic balance correlated well (r 0.5) with all functional fitness tests as well as aerobic endurance and physical activity index in the female participants, and only showed a medium correlation with agility in the male participants. This study showed alarming percentages of poor test results for both male and female senior citizens and highlights the need for physical activity interventions in old age homes. The correlations between aerobic endurance, as well as dynamic balance and functional fitness tests indicates that even simple interventions such as walking programs could enhance the functional fitness of senior citizens and thereby increase their independency.
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