2. DPT student, University of the Sciences, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
Background: Falls are the fifth leading cause of death among adults aged 65 years and older. Lower extremity weakness and decreased balance are two important risk factors associated with falls in the older population. Current research suggests that in order to produce effective outcomes, an exercise program for older adults needs to be at least 10 weeks in length.
Methods: 18 of 23 participants over the age of 60 years (17 female, 1 male; mean age 74 years) completed this pre-test-post-test design. The participants tested on the following outcome measures: 30-second Chair Stand test for lower extremity strength, Four Square Step test (FSST) for dynamic balance, Timed Up and Go (TUG) test for mobility, Activity-Specific Balance Confidence scale (ABC) for balance confidence and GAITRite® for forward and backward walking velocity. Participants attended a 45-minute group-based exercise program twice a week for 5 weeks at a local church. The program included a 5 minute warm up, 10 minutes of stretching, 20 minutes of strengthening for both upper and lower extremities with resistance as well as core work, 5 minutes of balance training and 5 minutes of cool down exercises.
Results: A significant difference was found in the pre- and post-test measures of backward gait velocity (p=0.034), forward gait velocity (p=0.016), 30-sCST (p=0.001), TUG (p=0.022), and the FSST (p=0.001). Although there was no statistically significant differences found in the ABC scale, the overall scores increased.
Conclusion: This 5-week group-based exercise program was effective at improving forward and backward gait velocity as well as decreasing the clinical risk for falls in older adults. It is recommended that elements of this program be incorporated into physical therapy practice. Additionally, upon conclusion of physical therapy treatment, older adults should be encouraged to participate in community-based group exercise programs to maintain overall health and wellness and prevent future falls.
Keywords: Falls, gait, older adults, exercise