Study aim: To measure the effects of Pilates and aqua fitness training on functional fitness and quality of life in older individuals.
Material and methods: A total of 54 participants (M = 66.4 ± 6.2 years) from a club for retired people in Eger, Hungary, were randomly assigned to 3 groups: one did Pilates 3 times/week (n = 22); one did aqua fitness 3 times/week (n = 17); and a control group (n = 15). The Fullerton Functional Fitness Test (FFFT) was used to measure functional fitness pre - and post-program. Quality of life was measured by WHO’s quality of life questionnaire (WHOQOL).
Results: In the FFFT, significant improvement was found in 5 out of 7 variables: lower and upper body strength, lower body flexibility, physical mobility (especially dynamic balance), and aerobic endurance by the Pilates group. Shoulder flexibility improved significantly in the Aqua fitness group. Lower body strength improved in the control group. BMI did not change significantly in any of the groups. WHOQOL showed improvement in perception and autonomy in the Pilates group; sociability in the Aqua group. The between-subject analyses yielded a significant main effect of the experimental group F(1, 52) = 4367 (p < 0.001).
Discussion: A 6-month intervention program is an appropriate tool to improve overall physical performance of healthy, inactive older adults, regardless of the type of exercise concerning Pilates or Aqua fitness, but might improve only some aspects of QOL. There is a strong need for well-designed intervention programs for the elderly.
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