Background Low muscle strength is related to an increased risk for several chronic diseases. Increased muscle strength improves daily function and quality of life.
Objective To measure maximal step-up height, an assessment of leg strength and function, and its association to age, anthropometric variables, maximal oxygen uptake (VO2-max) and self-reported physical function before and after a physical activity programme.
Methods Female patients (n=178, 22–83 years) with musculoskeletal disorders, metabolic risk factors and other chronic diseases were recruited from primary care. Maximal step-up height (standardised step-up without a kick-off with the floor foot), anthropometric variables, VO2-max and self-reported physical function (Short Form 36 (SF-36)) were assessed before and after a 3-month group training intervention programme. Associations between maximal step-up height and other variables were examined using univariate and multivariate methods.
Results At baseline and after intervention, maximal step-up height was negatively correlated to age, waist circumference and body weight and positively correlated to VO2-max, self-reported physical function and height. Furthermore, maximal step-up height correlated to training intensity at follow-up. Variations in changes in maximal step-up height were significantly explained by changes in waist circumference and physical function, regardless of age and changes in VO2-max. Maximal step-up height below 24 cm discriminated patients with self-reported severe limitation in physical function.
Conclusions Maximal step-up height, assessed simply with a standardised step-up test, may function as a relevant indicator of health since it correlated negatively to the metabolic risk factors, waist circumference, body weight and age, and positively to VO2-max and physical function.
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