There is a growing consensus about the positive physical, mental and cognitive health benefits of regular physical activity. While less is known about the specific effects of different types and amounts of physical activity, staying active is widely agreed to be a major part of healthy aging. Despite the well-documented benefits of physical activity, older adults are among the least physically active.
[Photo: Dr. Marcia Ory]
In recent years, there have been many evidence-based programs aimed at increasing physical activity among older adults, but some of these efforts have had trouble being scaled up and sustained, possibly because of their origins in highly controlled research studies. This is not the case for Texercise Select, Texas Health and Human Services’ 12-week group program designed to promote healthy lifestyle activities.
A new study led by Regents and Distinguished Professor Dr. Marcia Ory, of the Texas A&M School of Public Health analyzed the effects of Texercise Select on healthy behaviors in older adults in Texas. This study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, builds on an earlier study that showed Texercise Select having significant positive health and functioning impacts. Dr. Ory was joined by others affiliated with the Center for Population Health and Aging, in conducting a more rigorous study looking into the program’s benefits. Their hypotheses were that the Texercise Select would significantly benefit program participants and that the initial effects would be sustained over time.
Dr. Ory and her colleagues analyzed 430 participants over the age of 45, of whom 163 participated in Texercise Select and 267 did not. The team used pre-tests and post-tests in the intervention group and collected data from participants before the program and again at three-month and six-month follow-ups.
Unlike other health promotion programs conducted in clinical settings, Texercise Select takes place in senior centers, education facilities and other community settings where older adults are likely to congregate. The locations offering Texercise Select recruited participants for the study. The researchers examined the number of days and minutes per day that participants said they were physically active and their exercise intensity (light, moderate or vigorous). They also looked at self-efficacy behaviors like setting exercise goals, exercising safely and identifying activities to perform and places to be physically active. Social support for planning and carrying out exercise goals was also studied.
Although Texercise Select is designed for individuals 45 years and older, the mean age of study participants was 74 years of age. The group participating in the program showed improvements in physical activity levels, self-efficacy and social support three months and six months from baseline compared to people in the comparison group who did not take part in Texercise Select. This supports the researchers’ hypotheses and is consistent with the findings of other successful programs aimed at promoting healthy behaviors among older adults.
Additionally, Texercise Select participants showed a decrease in sedentary behavior, which is a common risk factor for many chronic health problems. The social support and self-efficacy findings also indicate that Texercise Select encourages participants to be more active in managing their health. Future research looking at larger and more diverse populations and using objective physical activity assessments will help give a more generalizable view of the program’s effects.
Dr. Ory summarizes, “The findings from this study point to Texercise Select having a positive impact on health behaviors and show that older adults are interested in taking a more active role in their health. With its links to state government, Texercise Select has great potential to scale larger and be sustainable in the long term.”