Unassisted orthostatic balancing exercises in a fall-safe environment enhances balance and stability in frail elderly

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

American College of Sports Medicine 2011 National Conference


American College of Sports Medicine


Denver, CO

Publication Date



Falls are the leading cause of injury-related visits to emergency rooms and accidental deaths in the elderly. One in three elderly fall annually and are hospitalized for fall-related injuries five times more often than for other types of injuries. Most hip fractures among elderly are caused by falls and about 1 in 5 fracture patients die within a year while approximately 30% sustain injuries that interfere with independent living.

PURPOSE: Balance may be improved by static balance exercises, however; exercises for the elderly must be conducted in a safe environment to prevent a fall during training. The purpose of this study was to assess the effectiveness of non-supervised, independent static balance training within a secure fall-safe environment in elderly participants.

METHODS: Thirty-two male and females (82.6+6.1 yrs) residing independent living facilities were randomly assigned to an experimental or a control group. Assessments included: 30-Second Chair Stand Test (CST), Timed 8-ft Up and Go Test (TUG), Berg Balance Scale (BBS), and a Step Up Test (SUT). The experimental group engaged in standing, static balancing and mild leg exercises for 12 minutes per session, 3/wk for 12 weeks. Exercises were done independent of spotters within specially constructed frame consisting of tethers connected to the subject so that he/she could not fall. The control group was be given literature on prevention of falls.

RESULTS: Statistical comparisons (ANOVA) of before and after the 12-week intervention yielded significant (p<0.01) improvement for the experimental group over the control group in all areas tested.

CONCLUSION: Static balance exercises conducted independently without supervisory personnel led to improvements in balance and functional ability in frail elderly. Such improvements logically correspond to a reduction in falling allowing greater personal independence. Also, independent training allows personnel to attend to other duties, thus providing a cost savings. Lastly, this type of training may also be suitable in rehabilitation facilities for those suffering from injuries that affect balance and posture.

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