Comparison of two methods of conducting the Fit and Strong! program

Arthritis Rheum. 2009 Jun 29;61(7):876-884. 
Authors: Seymour RB, Hughes SL, Campbell RT, Huber GM, Desai P.

Objective: Fit and Strong! is an award winning, evidence-based, multiple-component physical activity/behavior change intervention. It is a group- and facility-based program that meets for 90 minutes 3 times per week for 8 weeks (24 sessions total). We originally tested Fit and Strong! using physical therapists (PTs) as instructors but have transitioned to using nationally certified exercise instructors (CEIs) as part of an effort to translate Fit and Strong! into community-based settings, and have tested the impact of this shift in instruction type on participant outcomes. Methods: We used a 2-group design. The first 161 participants to sequentially enroll received instruction from PTs. The next 190 sequential enrollees received instruction from CEIs. All participants were assessed at baseline, at the conclusion of the 8-week Fit and Strong! program, and at the 6-month followup. Results: We saw no significant differences by group on outcomes at 8 weeks or 6 months. Participants in both groups improved significantly with respect to lower-extremity strength, aerobic capacity, pain, stiffness, and physical function. Significant differences favoring the PT-led classes were seen on 2 of 5 mediators, self-efficacy for exercise and barriers adherence efficacy. Participant evaluations rated both types of instruction equally highly, attendance was identical, and no untoward health events were observed or reported under either instruction mode. Conclusion: Outcomes under the 2 types of instruction are remarkably stable. These findings justify the use of CEIs in the future to extend the reach of the Fit and Strong! program.

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