Authors: Weber M, Belala N, Clemson L, Boulton E, Hawley-Hague H, Becker C, Schwenk M.
Traditionally, exercise programmes for improving functional performance and reducing falls are organised as structured sessions. An alternative approach of integrating functional exercises into everyday tasks has emerged in recent years.
Summarising the current evidence for the feasibility and effectiveness of interventions integrating functional exercise into daily life.
A systematic literature search was conducted including articles based on the following criteria: (1) individuals ≥60 years; (2) intervention studies of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and non-randomised studies (NRS); (3) using a lifestyle-integrated approach; (4) using functional exercises to improve strength, balance, or physical functioning; and (5) reporting outcomes on feasibility and/or effectiveness. Methodological quality of RCTs was evaluated using the PEDro scale.
Of 4,415 articles identified from 6 databases, 14 (6 RCTs) met the inclusion criteria. RCT quality was moderate to good. Intervention concepts included (1) the Lifestyle-integrated Functional Exercise (LiFE) programme integrating exercises into everyday activities and (2) combined programmes using integrated and structured training. Three RCTs evaluated LiFE in community dwellers and reported significantly improved balance, strength, and functional performance compared with controls receiving either no intervention, or low-intensity exercise, or structured exercise. Two of these RCTs reported a significant reduction in fall rate compared with controls receiving either no intervention or low-intensity exercise. Three RCTs compared combined programmes with usual care in institutionalised settings and reported improvements for some (balance, functional performance), but not all (strength, falls) outcomes. NRS showed behavioural change related to LiFE and feasibility in more impaired populations. One NRS comparing a combined home-based programme to a gym-based programme reported greater sustainability of effects in the combined programme.
This review provides evidence for the effectiveness of integrated training for improving motor performances in older adults. Single studies suggest advantages of integrated compared with structured training. Combined programmes are positively evaluated in institutionalised settings, while little evidence exists in other populations. In summary, the approach of integrating functional exercise into daily life represents a promising alternative or complement to structured exercise programmes. However, more RCTs are needed to evaluate this concept in different target populations and the potential for inducing behavioural change.