CHICAGO -- Working out at local senior centers and YMCAs may help older adults improve physical functioning and lower their risk factors for disability, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

The study tracked 544 adults, with an average age of 66, through a multiple-component exercise program that included flexibility, aerobic and strength training. Participants worked out at facilities considered “best practice physical activity programs,” based on a competition done by the Center for Healthy Aging of the National Council on Aging. Study participants were then gauged on baseline performance tests and with five- and 10-month check-ups. Results were compared with a control group that did not exercise.

The active group had statistically significant benefits at both the five- and 10-month ranges with regard to increased upper and lower body strength, increased exercise participation and increased confidence in their ability to continue exercising.

Based on their findings, researchers recommend that U.S. public policy encourage inexpensive health promotion programs with public funding.