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The purpose of this study was to determine whether a moderate to high intensity strengthening and aerobic exercise program can improve the strength, exercise capacity, gait and balance of deconditioned male nursing home residents. Ambulatory subjects who scored 30 or less on the modified Tinetti gait and balance assessment scale, who demonstrated less than 80% of age-matched lower extremity strength on isokinetic muscle testing and who gave informed consent were enrolled. Subjects were randomized to either an exercise (n = 8) or a control (n = 6) group. All participants underwent an exercise test to determine maximal oxygen uptake (Vo2max) and received quantitative gait and balance measurements. The subjects assigned to the exercise group then completed a 12-wk program of weight training for the lower extremities and stationary cycling. Both the exercise and control groups were then retested. Ten outcome variables were assessed: Tinetti mobility scores, Vo2max, isokinetic-tested lower extremity strength and endurance, stride length, gait velocity, stance time, gait duration, cadence and balance. The exercise group, after completion of the program, demonstrated significant improvements in Tinetti mobility scores (P < 0.05), combined right and left quadricep muscle strength (P < 0.01), right and left lower extremity muscular endurance (P < 0.01), left stride length and gait velocity (P < 0.05), although other outcome variables changed insignificantly. The control group revealed no changes of significance with the exception of improvement of the combined right and left hamstring muscle strength (P < 0.05). Nevertheless, for those outcome variables that had improved significantly in the exercise group, the changes amounted to only a 5 to 10% increase over the baseline measurements. These findings showed that an appropriately designed high intensity exercise program can result in significant although limited improvements for clinical mobility scores, strength, muscular endurance and certain gait parameters.