JOURNAL ARTICLE
RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL

A best practice fall prevention exercise program to improve balance, strength / power, and psychosocial health in older adults: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial

Yves J Gschwind, Reto W Kressig, Andre Lacroix, Thomas Muehlbauer, Barbara Pfenninger, Urs Granacher
BMC Geriatrics 2013 October 9, 13: 105
24106864

BACKGROUND: With increasing age neuromuscular deficits (e.g., sarcopenia) may result in impaired physical performance and an increased risk for falls. Prominent intrinsic fall-risk factors are age-related decreases in balance and strength / power performance as well as cognitive decline. Additional studies are needed to develop specifically tailored exercise programs for older adults that can easily be implemented into clinical practice. Thus, the objective of the present trial is to assess the effects of a fall prevention program that was developed by an interdisciplinary expert panel on measures of balance, strength / power, body composition, cognition, psychosocial well-being, and falls self-efficacy in healthy older adults. Additionally, the time-related effects of detraining are tested.

METHODS/DESIGN: Healthy old people (n = 54) between the age of 65 to 80 years will participate in this trial. The testing protocol comprises tests for the assessment of static / dynamic steady-state balance (i.e., Sharpened Romberg Test, instrumented gait analysis), proactive balance (i.e., Functional Reach Test; Timed Up and Go Test), reactive balance (i.e., perturbation test during bipedal stance; Push and Release Test), strength (i.e., hand grip strength test; Chair Stand Test), and power (i.e., Stair Climb Power Test; countermovement jump). Further, body composition will be analysed using a bioelectrical impedance analysis system. In addition, questionnaires for the assessment of psychosocial (i.e., World Health Organisation Quality of Life Assessment-Bref), cognitive (i.e., Mini Mental State Examination), and fall risk determinants (i.e., Fall Efficacy Scale - International) will be included in the study protocol. Participants will be randomized into two intervention groups or the control / waiting group. After baseline measures, participants in the intervention groups will conduct a 12-week balance and strength / power exercise intervention 3 times per week, with each training session lasting 30 min. (actual training time). One intervention group will complete an extensive supervised training program, while the other intervention group will complete a short version ('3 times 3') that is home-based and controlled by weekly phone calls. Post-tests will be conducted right after the intervention period. Additionally, detraining effects will be measured 12 weeks after program cessation. The control group / waiting group will not participate in any specific intervention during the experimental period, but will receive the extensive supervised program after the experimental period.

DISCUSSION: It is expected that particularly the supervised combination of balance and strength / power training will improve performance in variables of balance, strength / power, body composition, cognitive function, psychosocial well-being, and falls self-efficacy of older adults. In addition, information regarding fall risk assessment, dose-response-relations, detraining effects, and supervision of training will be provided. Further, training-induced health-relevant changes, such as improved performance in activities of daily living, cognitive function, and quality of life, as well as a reduced risk for falls may help to lower costs in the health care system. Finally, practitioners, therapists, and instructors will be provided with a scientifically evaluated feasible, safe, and easy-to-administer exercise program for fall prevention.

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