Supervised balance training shows immediate benefit for older adults at fall risk. The long-term effectiveness of such training can be enhanced by implementing a safe and simple home exercise program (HEP). The team investigated the effects of a 12-week unsupervised HEP following supervised clinic-based balance training on functional mobility, balance, fall risk, and gait.
Six older adults with an elevated fall risk obtained an HEP and comprised the HEP group (HEPG) and five older adults who were not given an HEP comprised the no HEP group (NoHEPG). The HEP consisted of three static balance exercises: feet-together, single-leg stance, and tandem. Each exercise was to be performed twice for 30-60 s, once per day, 3 days per week for 12 weeks. Participants were educated on proper form, safety, and progression of exercises. Pre- and post-HEP testing included Berg Balance Scale (BBS), Timed Up and Go, Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB) assessments, Activities-Balance Confidence, Late-Life Functional Disability Instrument and instrumented assessments of balance and gait (Limits of Stability, modified Clinical Test of Sensory Interaction on Balance, Gait). A healthy control group (HCG; n = 11) was also tested.
For most of the measures, the HEPG improved to the level of HCG. Though task-specific improvements like BBS and SPPB components were seen, the results did not carry over to more dynamic assessments. Results provide proof of concept that a simple HEP can be independently implemented and effective for sustaining and/or improving balance in older adults at elevated fall-risk after they have undergone a clinic-based balance intervention.