Fitness That Fits

Lakehead University’s Centre for Education and Research in Aging & Health (CERAH), in collaboration with the School of Kinesiology, is piloting a research project aimed toward exercise promotion for older adults. The project, “Fitness that Fits,” will address a significant and growing health issue. 

Currently, there is no easy way for older adults to select existing exercise classes that fit their fitness level. This is critical for those who are relatively new to structured exercise classes or those who have completed a physical rehabilitation program, and are seeking to extend their pursuit of an active lifestyle.

To address this issue, the “Fitness that Fits” project aims to develop a functional fitness scale that ranks classes geared towards older adults. Functional fitness is described as the ability to perform activities of daily living safely and independently without undue fatigue. Classes will be ranked on a scale from level A (requiring high levels of functional fitness) to level D (requiring low levels of functional fitness).

This “Fitness that Fits Scale” will be matched with the individual’s scores on a Seniors Fitness Test (SFT), which is a simple 6 item assessment that provides participants with their functional fitness level. Based on an individual’s results from the SFT, they will have an idea of what class level is best for them.

The “Fitness that Fits” research project is a $34,000 grant funded by the Ministry of Health Promotion and Sport (2011-2013). The research is currently completing phase one of the project. The purpose of phase one is to use the Fitness that Fits Scale to describe all exercise classes offered by the Canada Games Complex and the 55 Plus Centre that are geared towards accommodating older adult participants.

Phase two and three of the “Fitness that Fits” research project will commence April 2013 and June 2013, respectively. Phase two consists of recruiting 40 older adults from phase one’s fitness classes to perform the SFT. Their individual SFT score will be compared to the Fitness that Fits Scale level (A, B, C or D) of the class they were enrolled in, helping to verify if the Fitness that Fits Scale is a useful tool.

Phase three consists of recruiting 10 older adult participants from the community who are not experienced with community exercise classes. Participants will perform the SFT; with their results they will be matched with community exercise classes using the Fitness that Fits Scale. Participants will select one class that appeals to them, and will be asked to attend three classes total. Following the exercise classes, participants will undergo a semi-structured interview with the Fitness that Fits research team. The interview will determine if the scale helped select a class that fit their fitness level, and whether this scale helped overcome some of the many barriers to exercise.

Further expansion of the project could see the Fitness that Fits Scale applied to more classes as well as “take home” instructions to complete the SFT. Ultimately this could lead to an increase in exercise program enrolments, greater enjoyment from the programs and fewer drop outs.