The effectiveness of a peer-mentored older adult fitness program on perceived physical, mental, and social function
Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners
Purpose: The purpose of this research was to compare changes in perceived physical, mental, and social function measured by the Short Form-36 (SF36vr2) in a group of older adults who were trained by peer mentors (PMs) versus a similar group trained by qualified kinesiology student mentors (SMs). Data sources: We conducted a two-arm repeated measures longitudinal intervention and collected data for 87 PM and 44 SM participants. Pre- and post-training subscale scores were computed for all eight subscales and the two summary physical and mental component scores. The percentage differences in the 10 scores were used as the response variables. Conclusions: After a 14-week physical fitness intervention, perceived physical, mental, and social functioning improved significantly (p <.05) for the PM group, but not for the SM group (p >.06). Thus, older adults who participated in a physical fitness program with peer support perceived (a) overall improvement in physical and mental well-being; (b) better social functioning, (c) enhanced ability to carry out physical and emotional roles, (d) improved general health, and (e) increased level of vitality. Thus, we conclude that peer-mentored exercise programs for older adults are superior to programs mentored by young professionals and may lead to increased adherence. Implications for practice Nurse practitioners routinely prescribe exercise while educating older adults about the benefits of an active lifestyle; however, older adults often remain sedentary and exhibit poor adherence to exercise. One potential solution is to use peer support. Two factors that can improve adherence are availability of structured exercise programs for the older adult and peer mentoring. © 2009 American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.