Being confident and stable on our feet as we age is a really important factor in helping to avoid fall related injuries. This is commonly done through balance and strength training in the hopes to improve a sense called proprioception. This is the body’s ability to be aware of itself through space. Having a strong sense of proprioception helps to decrease the effects normal age-related increase in instability. In a recent study published, it detailed the effects of an exercise program for older adults on number of falls and fear of falling. In this blog I will run through this study in a little more detail and add some tips to performing these at home!
Why do we get wobblier as we age?
With ageing comes some normal changes to our bodies at both a micro and macro level. On a smaller level, our bodies tend to lose muscle, we have a decrease in our ability to move our muscles quickly and our joints and tendons tend to stiffen over time. We also can start to have some decreased feeling in our feet and some decrease in the ability for our balance centres in our ears to work. Overall, this just means that there are specific physiological reasons as to why as we tend to feel more unstable on our feet as we get older.
What did they do in the study?
This small study compared two groups, one control group who received no treatment, and an intervention group that performed a balance exercise program for 12 weeks. To measure how the two groups changed, the researchers performed two balance assessments and spoke with the patients about their fear of falling.
The exercise program included some of the following:
- Breathing exercises
- Spinal stretching
- Varied standing balance exercises
- Walking balance exercises
- Coordination based exercises
- General stretching
What was the difference following the study?
The participants that did not received treatment remained the same in all their physical measures. However, the group that performed the exercise program, did not experience any falls over the 12 weeks and had significant improvements in their physical balance measures.
Although a small and rather simple study, this piece of evidence shows us the power of a balance program in helping to avoid falls in older adults. Even simple exercises performed at home can be really effective in the long term. Each program must be individualised to the patient, so if you have any questions about if these exercise are right for you, be sure to talk to your Physiotherapist. I wold love to help those based near Sydney’s CBD or even online via Telehealth!
Esposito G, Altavilla G, Di Domenico F, Aliberti S, D’Isanto T & D’Elia F (2021) Proprioceptive Training to Improve Static and Dynamic Balance in Elderly. International Journal of Statistics in Medical Research, 10, 194-9.