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Put Away The Chairs: Seniors See Better Results From Standing Exercise

Garry Knight
Wikipedia Commons
In a University of Pittsburgh study, a group of elderly participants were tested to see if exercising with chairs or on their feet was more beneficial. The group on their feet yielded healthier results.

The elderly benefit more from standing exercises than traditional seated ones, according to a report by the University of Pittsburgh. Researcher Jennifer Brach said while this has been assumed for quite a while, her study was the first to prove it scientifically.

Brach studied 298 seniors who averaged over 80-years-old. The group was separated into exercise classes of about 10 people.

Some participated in a traditional seated exercise program, which focused on strength, endurance, and flexibility, like using lightweight playground balls in gentle exercises.

The other group took a pilot class created by Brach called "On the Move," consisting of timing and coordination exercises, as well as strengthening and stretching, like stepping forward and backward in progressive speed. Both classes were 50 minutes twice a week for 12 weeks.

Brach said the seniors in the standing class reported better mobility after 12 weeks.

"Some of them even said things like 'I'm sleeping better', and a few of them even said they feel like they lost a little bit of weight as well," she said.

The adults studied reside in senior living facilities, and Brach said many suffered from chronic illnesses. Despite age-based hurdles, she said seniors who make the time to exercise show increased physical and mental health.

While chair exercises are commonly recommended for the elderly, Brach said any standing exercise, including walking, has a better effect on overall health.

"We did work with a group that was quite frail, so it was encouraging to see that these individuals were able to participate in the program and benefit from it," she said.

Brach said the social aspect of exercise class was an added benefit to the seniors as it fostered a sense of community. While there are no plans to implement "On the Move" programs in senior living facilities as of now, Brach said seniors can develop their own standing-based exercise routines to see positive results.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. She hopes her findings will encourage a beneficial alternative to traditional senior exercises.

Photo credit: Garry Knight/Wikimedia Commons

Kathleen J. Davis covers news about just about anything at WESA. She’s also the primary reporter and producer of WESA’s weekly series Pittsburgh Tech Report. Kathleen originally hails from the great state of Michigan, and is always available to talk about suburban Detroit and Coney Island diners. She lives in Bloomfield.