Fitness in Older African American Population
With the rapid growth of the number of Americans aged 65 or older resulting in expectations of doubling the number of the population in that age bracket, health professionals and fitness experts will be called upon to develop and implement methods for keeping this population as healthy as possible for as long as possible, and to aid these individuals with retaining their quality of life. This study examined whether incorporating a low-cost, community-based strength and flexibility program would improve performancebased measures of strength, flexibility, and endurance in older (57 to 82 yr.; M = 68 yr., SD = 5 yr.) African-American adults. Evaluated components were upper body strength (maximal amount of weighted arm curls), lower body strength (maximal amount of chair-ups), upper body flexibility (backscratch), lower body flexibility (modified sit-and-reach), and aerobic endurance (maximal distance covered in 6 minutes). Twenty African-American adults (5 male and 15 female) volunteered to participate in five weeks of strength and flexibility training (twice per week, 60 min. per session). Posttest results showed performance improvements for all five measured parameters, with significant improvements found for upper- and lower- body strength and lower body flexibility. Additionally, the structure of this exercise program resulted in adherence rates of more than 80%. In light of these findings, it is important that the design of strength and flexibility programs for older adults be implemented through the collaboration of health professionals and fitness experts; it is with this multifaceted approach to aging that an improvement in quality of life in later years can be achieved successfully.