Effects of whole-body vibration on balance and mobility in institutionalized older adults: a RCT

The aim of this study was to investigate whether a comprehensive exercise program was effective in improving physical function among institutionalized older adults and whether adding whole-body vibration to the program conferred additional therapeutic benefits. In total, 73 older adults (40 women, mean age: 82.3 ± 7.3 years) were enrolled into this study.

Participants were randomly allocated to one of the three groups: strength and balance program combined with whole-body vibration, strength and balance program without whole-body vibration, and social and recreational activities consisting of upper limb exercises only. All participants completed three training sessions per week for eight weeks. Assessment of mobility, balance, lower limb strength, walking endurance, and self-perceived balance confidence were conducted at baseline and immediately after the eight-week intervention. Incidences of falls requiring medical attention were recorded for one year after the end of the training period.

A significant time × group interaction was found for lower limb strength (five-times-sit-to-stand test; P = 0.048), with the exercise-only group showing improvement (pretest: 35.8 ± 16.1 seconds; posttest: 29.0 ± 9.8 seconds), compared with a decline in strength among controls (pretest: 27.1 ± 10.4 seconds; posttest: 28.7 ± 12.3 seconds; P = 0.030). The exercise with whole-body vibration group had a significantly better outcome in balance confidence (pretest: 39.2 ± 29.0; posttest: 48.4 ± 30.6) than the exercise-only group (pretest: 35.9 ± 24.8; posttest: 38.2 ± 26.5; P = 0.033).

The exercise program was effective in improving lower limb strength among institutionalized older adults but adding whole-body vibration did not enhance its effect. Whole-body vibration may improve balance confidence without enhancing actual balance performance.