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Vol. 55, No. 6, 2009
Issue release date: November 2009
Gerontology 2009;55:614–620

Stretching Exercise Program Improves Gait in the Elderly

Cristopoliski F. · Barela J.A. · Leite N. · Fowler N.E. · Rodacki A.L.F.
aCenter for Studies of Motor Control, Department of Physical Education, Federal University of Paraná, Curitiba, bLaboratory of Movement Studies, Department of Physical Education, Institute of Biosciences, State University of São Paulo, Rio Claro, and cLaboratory of Movement Analysis, Center of Biological and Health Science, Cruzeiro do Sul University, São Paulo, Brazil; dDepartment of Exercise and Sport Science, Manchester Metropolitan University, Alsager, UK

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Background: Ageing is characterized by a number of physical changes that contribute to a decline in the ability to perform daily tasks. Stretching has been proposed to reduce hip flexion contracture and increase hip and pelvis range of motion, thus improving gait performance. Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine whether a supervised stretching program designed to improve the range of motion of the lower limbs alters gait kinematics in older adults. Methods: Twenty healthy older adult women (65.9 ± 4.2 years old and BMI 24.9 ± 3.5) were divided into 2 groups. The experimental group undertook 12 sessions of stretching exercises, whereas the control group did not engage in any physical activity. Gait performance was assessed at the beginning of the experiment and after the 4-week intervention period. Results: Those in the experimental group showed increased step length, higher velocity and reduced double support time after training. In addition, participants involved in the stretching program showed greater anterior and lateral pelvis tilt and also greater rotation (p < 0.05). Conclusions: Based on our results, we can suggest that a supervised stretching program is effective to alter a number of gait variables. Moreover, after the stretching protocol, aged participants displayed gait parameters which were similar to those reported in young healthy adults. Therefore, stretching can be used as an effective means to improve range of motion and reverse some age-related changes that influence gait performance.

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