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Vol. 50, No. 2, 2004
Issue release date: 2004
Gerontology 2004;50:87–95

Changes in Postural Balance in Frail Elderly Women during a 4-Week Visual Feedback Training: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Sihvonen S.E. · Sipilä S. · Era P.A.
aDepartment of Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, and bLIKES Research Center, Jyväskylä, and cBrain Research and Rehabilitation Center Neuron, Kuopio, Finland

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Background: Balance training programs have not shown consistent results among older adults, and it remains unclear how different training methods can be adapted to frail elderly people. Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of a 4-week visual feedback-based balance training on the postural control of frail elderly women living in residential care homes. Methods: Elderly women of two residential care facilities were randomized to an exercise group (EG, n = 20) and to a control group (CG, n = 7). The EG participated in training sessions three times/week for 4 weeks. The exercises were carried out with a computerized force platform with visual feedback screen. The dimensions of balance function studied were standing body sway, dynamic weight shifting, and Berg Balance Scale performance. Results: The EG showed significant improvement in balance functions. The performance time in dynamic balance tests improved on average by 35.9% compared with a 0.6% increase in the CG (p = 0.025–0.193). The performance distance in these tests decreased on average by 28.2% in the EG as compared with a 9.8% decrease seen in the CG. The Berg Balance Scale performance improved by 6.9% compared with a 0.7% increase in the CG (p = 0.003). The standing balance tests in the more demanding standing positions showed improvements in the EG, whereas similar changes in the CG were not found. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that balance training based on visual feedback improves the balance control in frail elderly women living in residential care, also enhancing the performance of functional balancing tasks relevant to daily living. The subjects were motivated to participate in the training, as indicated by the high compliance (97.5%) with the program.

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