INTRODUCTION: Frail older people are often unable to undertake high-intensity exercise programmes. Chair-based exercises (CBEs) are used as an alternative, for which health benefits are uncertain.
OBJECTIVE: To examine the effects of CBE programmes for frail older people through a systematic review of existing literature.
METHOD: A systematic search was performed for CBE-controlled trials in frail populations aged >=65 years published between 1990 and February 2011 in electronic databases. Quality was assessed using the Jadad method.
RESULTS: The search identified 164 references: with 42 duplicates removed, 122 reviewed, 116 excluded, and 6 analysed. 26 outcome measures were reported measuring 3 domains: mobility and function, cardiorespiratory fitness, mental health. All studies were of low methodological quality (Jadad score <=2; possible range 0-5). Two studies showed no benefit, and four reported some evidence of benefit in all three domains. No harmful effects were reported; compliance was generally good.
CONCLUSION: The quality of the evidence base for CBEs is low with inconclusive findings to clearly inform practice. A consensus is required on the definition and purpose of CBEs. Large well-designed randomised controlled trials to test the effectiveness of CBE are justified.