Long-term exercise and its effect on balance in older, osteoarthritic adults: results from the Fitness, Arthritis, and Seniors Trial (FAST)

S P Messier, T D Royer, T E Craven, M L O'Toole, R Burns, W H Ettinger
Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 2000, 48 (2): 131-8

OBJECTIVES: To examine the effects of 18-month aerobic walking and strength training programs on static postural stability among older adults with knee osteoarthritis.

DESIGN: Randomized, single-blind, clinical trial of therapeutic exercise.

SETTING: Both center-based (university) and home-based.

PARTICIPANTS: A cohort of 103 older adults (age = 60 years) with knee osteoarthritis who were participants in a large (n = 439) clinical trial and who were randomly assigned to undergo biomechanical testing.

INTERVENTION: An 18-month center- (3 months) and home-based (15 months) therapeutic exercise program. The subjects were randomized to one of three treatment arms: (1) aerobic walking; (2) health education control; or (3) weight training.

MEASUREMENTS: Force platform static balance measures of average length (Rm) of the center of pressure (COP), average velocity (Vel) of the COP, elliptical area (Ae) of the COP, and balance time (T). Measures were made under four conditions: eyes open, double- and single-leg stances and eyes closed, double- and single-leg stances.

RESULTS: In the eyes closed, double-leg stance condition, both the aerobic and weight training groups demonstrated significantly better sway measures relative to the health education group. The aerobic group also demonstrated better balance in the eyes open, single-leg stance condition.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that long-term weight training and aerobic walking programs significantly improve postural sway in older, osteoarthritic adults, thereby decreasing the likelihood of larger postural sway disturbances relative to a control group.

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