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Icon: Exercise-based interventionsExercise-based Interventions: Austrialian Group Exercise Program

Lord, et al.

This study evaluated a 12-month group exercise program for frail older adults. The program was tailored to each participant’s abilities. Overall, the fall rate was 22 percent lower among people who took part in the program, and 31 percent lower among participants who had fallen in the previous year, compared with those who were not in the program.


Ages ranged from 62 to 95 although nearly all were 70 years or older. Most study participants were female. Participants lived in retirement villages and most were independent.

Geographic Locale

Sydney and Wollongong, Australia


Increase participants’ strength, coordination, balance and gait, and increase their ability to carry out activities of daily living such as rising from a chair and climbing stairs.

Program Setting

Programs were conducted in common rooms in residential care community centers and senior centers within the retirement villages.


The group classes included weight-bearing exercises and balance activities that were challenging but not so difficult as to discourage participation or cause any adverse events. The program emphasized social interaction and enjoyment.

The program consisted of 4 successive 3-month terms. The first term included understanding movement, how the body works, training principles, and basic exercise principles. This was followed by progressive strength training and increasingly challenging balance exercises, using equipment to maintain interest. In each term, the exercise sessions built on the skills acquired in the previous term.

Each hour-long class had 3 segments:

  • A 5- to 15-minute warm-up period that included chair-based activities, stretching large muscle groups, and later in the program, slow to moderate walking
  • A 35- to 40-minute conditioning period that included aerobic exercises, strengthening exercises, and activities to improve balance, hand-eye and foot-eye coordination, and flexibility. As the program progressed, the number of repetitions of each exercise increased, beginning with 4 repetitions at week 2 and reaching 30 by week 10. Thirty repetitions were maintained for rest of the program
  • A 10-minute cool-down period that included muscle relaxation, controlled breathing, and guided imagery


One-hour classes were held twice a week for 12 months. The program consisted of 4 successive 3-month terms.

Delivered by

Six exercise instructors were trained to deliver the program. All had previously completed a training course conducted by the Australian Council for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation on leading exercise programs for frail, older people. The project coordinator regularly observed the instructors to provide support and to monitor program fidelity and consistency.

Everyone involved in implementing the program received specific 1-day training and met regularly to discuss issues and training updates.

Minimum Level of Training Needed

Instructors should have taken an exercise instructor course as well as a specific course on teaching exercise to older adults.

Key Elements

Information was not provided by the principal investigator.

Available Materials

No intervention materials were available at the time of publication.

Study Citation

Lord SR, Castell S, Corcoran J, Dayhew J, Matters B, Shan A, Williams P. The effect of group exercise on physical functioning and falls in frail older people living in retirement villages: A randomized, controlled trial. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 2003 Dec;51(12):1685-92.


Practitioners interested in using this intervention may contact the principal investigator for more information:

Stephen R. Lord, PhD
Neuroscience Research Australia
Barker Street, Randwick,
Sydney NSW 2031, Australia
Tel: +61 (2) 9399 1061
Fax: +61 (2) 9399 1005

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