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KNOXVILLE — A University of Tennessee gerontology researcher is using a real world classroom to improve health and exercise programs for senior citizens.

Any Body Can, a pilot study by Dr. Diane Klein, assistant professor in the Exercise, Sports and Leisure Studies Department, focuses on adults age 60 or older. She and her assistants will measure the health improvements made by senior citizens in two group exercise settings — one led by a peer of their age and trained by Klein and one led by Klein or her assistants. The researchers hope to find that the peer-led group will demonstrate the same types of improvement and levels of maintenance that the non-peer-led group shows.

She has established the two classes at the Kingston and Clinton community centers that will take part in the standardized exercise program.

-We know we are going to see some improvements in the participants,- said Klein. -What we don-t know is if the differences in functional status will be because of a trained class leader or a peer leader.-

Klein defines functional status as everyday activities such as tying shoes, playing with grandchildren or picking up a jug of milk.

Researchers seek to find ways to maintain and improve the functional status of senior citizens through exercise, she added.

Klein conducted a similar study focused on peer versus non-peer-led exercise classes in assisted living facilities and found virtually no difference statistically in the results of the two courses.

If similar findings arise from the current exercise programs, peer leaders could be trained and senior citizen exercise programs could be implemented in community centers across the state, said Klein.

Many senior citizen exercise programs currently in place are for profit, she added. -The programs we would like to develop would be no-cost or low-cost where participants are not responsible for purchasing their own equipment, which is important for people on a fixed income,- said Klein.

-Less than 30 percent of adults 65 or older are doing any kind of exercise and of the group who are exercising, only about one-third of them are doing enough to maintain their functionality,- said Klein.

Classes will consist of strength and flexibility training with light weights and resistance tubes. The second year of the study will examine the difference in exercise benefits from using hand-weights and resistance tubes.

Space is still available in both the Kingston and Clinton classes and adults age 60 or older can volunteer. The Clinton class will be held from 8:30-9:15 a.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning March 14. The Kingston class will be held from 9:30-10:15 a.m., Mondays and Thursdays beginning March 13.

For more information, contact Diane Klein at (865) 974-0294 or

Diane Klein (865-974-0294,
Beth Gladden (865-974-9008,