A statewide program evaluated by researchers at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health can help older adults meet their exercise and nutrition goals.

Texercise Select is a free 12-week program for seniors delivered throughout Texas in various locations from senior centers to faith-based organizations. Trained facilitators lead the program that includes education and discussion on physical activity and nutrition as well as 30-45 minutes of guided exercise.

A team of researchers led by Regents and Distinguished Professor Marcia G. Ory, Ph.D., examined the effectiveness of Texercise Select on physical functioning and quality-of-life outcomes. Researchers collected information on 220 participants 65 years of age and older from eight Texas counties.

Participants were surveyed at the beginning of the program and at completion, using a variety of survey methods to collect data on sociodemographics, health indicators, general health status, physical activity, confidence and social support. Additionally, participants completed a Timed Up-and-Go (TUG) test that measures the time required for participants to rise from a standard arm chair, walk at their typical pace three meters, turn, and walk back to their chair and sit down. The TUG test examines functional mobility and predicts fall risk.

The results of the study showed positive improvements in both physical activity and nutrition outcomes as well as objective functional assessments. Participants increased their likelihood of engaging in strength training and flexibility activities more than four-fold. Further, more than two-thirds of participants had improved TUG test scores, indicating decreased risks for falling and other mobility problems. Additionally, participants engaged in healthier eating practices. After being in the program, participants consumed more fruits and vegetables and increased their water consumption weekly. Participants also increased their self-confidence in making good nutrition choices. Those who completed more sessions had the greatest benefits.

As part of this effort, Alan Stevens, Ph.D., of Baylor Scott and White Healthcare, interviewed program facilitators and providers to better understand factors leading to the success of embedding Texercise Select into existing community and clinical settings.

“Programs such as Texercise Select which are rooted in best practices show great promise for positively impacting large numbers of participants and becoming sustained in communities,” Ory said. “Additional attention should be focused on examining the organizational and programmatic factors that facilitate the wide-spread dissemination and sustainability of effective health promotion programs.”

“Although Texercise has a long history of serving seniors in Texas, more efforts like these are needed to see the impacts of lifestyle improvement programs on the lives of older adults,” said Matthew Lee Smith, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Georgia College of Public Health, who was part of the research team.

Research findings were recently published in Frontiers in Public Health Education and Promotion, Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, and Translational Behavioral Medicine: Practice, Policy and Research.

Additional researchers from the Texas A&M School of Public Health include Luohua Jiang, Ph.D., Doris Howell, M.P.H., Shuai Chen, M.S., Jarius Pulczinski and Suzanne Swierc, M.P.H.

For more information on Texercise, see http://www.texercise.com

— Rae Lynn Mitchell

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