Program Results

During the past four and a half years, 383 men and 749 women have completed our basic exercise program. The 1,132 participants were an average age of 51.7 years, with 238 between 21 and 40 years, 553 between 41 and 60 years, and 341 between 61 and 80 years. As shown in Table 1, all three age groups began the basic exercise program with similar average body weights (between 172.7 and 179.9 pounds), and similar average body composition (between 25.6 and 27.2 percent fat). After two months of training, the three age groups experienced similar reductions in body weight (1.7 to 2.6 pounds), and significant improvements in body composition (2.0 to 2.3 percent fat).

More specifically, the basic exercise program produced similar changes in fat weight and lean (muscle) weight in all three age groups. As presented in Table 1, the younger adults lost 4.9 pounds of fat, the middle-aged adults lost 4.4 pounds of fat, and the older adults lost 4.1 pounds of fat. Likewise, the younger adults added 2.3 pounds of muscle, the middle-aged adults added 2.3 pounds of muscle, and the older adults added 2.4 pounds of muscle.

All three age groups also recorded significant reductions in resting blood pressure, with the older adults making the greatest improvement (6.2 mm Hg and 3.7 mm Hg diastolic). The participants’ lower blood pressure readings were probably related to both the exercise program itself, and the resultant body composition changes.

Another interesting finding was that the twice-a-week classes experienced about 90 percent as much body composition improvement as the three-day-a-week classes (2.0 percent vs. 2.2 percent). Over the eight-week exercise period, participants who trained Tuesdays and Thursdays lost 4.0 pounds of fat and gained 2.2 pounds of muscle, whereas those who trained Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays lost 4.6 pounds of fat and gained 2.5 pounds of muscle.

Based on these results, it appears that a basic program of endurance and strength exercise is effective for improving body composition and resting blood pressure in men and women between 20 and 80 years of age. That is, a two- or three-day-per-week exercise program based on the ACSM training guidelines works just as well for older adults as for younger adults.

But do previously sedentary adults accept and adhere to a basic exercise program with scheduled classes and personal instructors? Yes, based on our experience. In general, our participants make 85 percent of their scheduled classes, and 90 percent continue to exercise after completing the program. More than 95 percent of the participants rated the exercise program very high on a written questionnaire survey, indicating that previously inactive adults appreciate a carefully structured and supervised training environment. Apparently, having a specific time and place to exercise under the guidance of a knowledgeable instructor is motivational for men and women with little prior exercise experience.