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Balance-training program leads to improvements with osteoporosis

Osteoporosis can have numerous negative effects and increase risk of falling

Falls and resulting injuries are one of the most common causes of disability, reduced functioning, and lower quality of life in older adults. Unfortunately, as people age, the fear of falling usually increases as walking speed, balance, and physical function all tend to decrease. Osteoporosis, in which bones become more fragile and more likely to break, is also very common in older adults and may lead to additional impairments that increase the risk of falling even more. One possible solution is a balance training program that targets these impairments and decreases the risk of falling, but there is minimal evidence on the topic. To address this, a powerful study called a randomized-controlled trial (RCT) was conducted to determine the effectiveness of a balance training program on older adults with osteoporosis.

Small sample of older adults divided into three groups

Individuals 65 years or older with osteoporosis that were afraid of falling and/or fell at least once in the past 12 months were sought. A total of 69 patients fit this criteria and were randomly divided into the training, training with physical activity, or control group. The balance training consisted of various exercises that targeted balance, walking form (gait), and ability to multitask, and took place during 45-minute sessions, performed three times per week for 12 weeks. Participants in the training with physical activity group were also instructed to walk for at least 30 minutes, three times a week, while the control group did not receive treatment. All patients were evaluated before and after the 12-week intervention for balance, gait speed, physical function, and physical activity level.

Training program creates improvements;
unclear if physical activity provides additional benefits

The balance training program led to numerous improvements, including gait speed, balance performance, physical function, and beliefs regarding fall risk. These improvements were noted in both training groups, and there were no major differences between them. This suggests that the additional physical activity may not have led to any extra benefits. Nonetheless, these results indicate that a balance training program may be effective for older adults with osteoporosis by improving their condition and reducing their risk of falling. The use of such a program should therefore be considered for individuals in this at-risk population.

-As reported in the August '14 issue of Clinical Rehabilitation

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