BACKGROUND The Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB), which includes walking, balance, and chair stands tests, independently predicts mobility disability and activities of daily living disability. To date, however, there is no definitive evidence from randomized controlled trials that SPPB scores can be improved. Our objective was to assess the effect of a comprehensive physical activity (PA) intervention on the SPPB and other physical performance measures. METHODS A total of 424 sedentary persons at risk for disability (ages 70-89 years) were randomized to a moderate-intensity PA intervention or a successful aging (SA) health education intervention and were followed for an average of 1.2 years. RESULTS The mean baseline SPPB score on a scale of 0-12, with 12 corresponding to highest performance, was 7.5. At 6 and 12 months, the PA versus SA group adjusted SPPB (+/- standard error) scores were 8.7 +/- 0.1 versus 8.0 +/- 0.1, and 8.5 +/- 0.1 versus 7.9 +/- 0.2, respectively (p < .001). The 400-meter walking speed was also significantly improved in the PA group. The PA group had a lower incidence of major mobility disability defined as incapacity to complete a 400-meter walk (hazard ratio = 0.71, 95% confidence interval = 0.44-1.20). CONCLUSIONS A structured PA intervention improved the SPPB score and other measures of physical performance. An intervention that improves the SPPB performance may also offer benefit on more distal health outcomes, such as mobility disability.
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