Balance improvements in older women: effects of exercise training

J O Judge, C Lindsey, M Underwood, D Winsemius
Physical Therapy 1993, 73 (4): 254-62; discussion 263-5

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Loss of lower-extremity strength increases the risk of falls in older persons. The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that a vigorous program of lower-extremity strengthening, walking, and postural control exercises would improve the single-stance balance of healthy older women and lower their risk of falls and fall-associated injuries.

SUBJECTS: From a total of 38 respondents, 21 women were randomly assigned to either a treatment group (combined training, n = 12) or a control group (flexibility training, n = 9). The subjects ranged in age from 62 to 75 years (mean = 68, SD = 3.5).

METHODS: A randomized control trial compared the effects of two exercise programs on static balance. The combined training group exercised three times per week on knee extension and sitting leg press machines, walked briskly for 20 minutes, and performed postural control exercises, which included simple tai chi movements. The flexibility training group performed postural control exercises weekly. Measurements of balance were obtained on a force platform in double and single stance, at baseline and following 6 months of exercise training.

RESULTS: Double-stance measurements were unchanged after training. The mean displacement of the center of pressure in single stance improved 17% in the combined training group and did not change in the flexibility training group. A repeated-measures analysis of variance revealed that the difference in improvement between the combined training and flexibility training groups was not significant.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION: This is the first intervention trial to demonstrate improvements in single-stance postural sway in older women with exercise training. Additional studies with more subjects will be needed to determine whether a combined training program of resistance training, walking, and postural exercises can improve balance more than a program of postural control exercises alone.

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