, Volume 41, Issue 5, pp 377-400
Date: 07 Oct 2012

Comparison of Traditional and Recent Approaches in the Promotion of Balance and Strength in Older Adults

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Abstract

Demographic change in industrialized countries produced an increase in the proportion of elderly people in our society, resulting in specific healthcare challenges. One such challenge is how to effectively deal with the increased risk of sustaining a fall and fall-related injuries in old age. Deficits in postural control and muscle strength represent important intrinsic fall risk factors. Thus, adequate training regimens need to be designed and applied that have the potential to reduce the rate of falling in older adults by countering these factors. Therefore, the purpose of this review is to compare traditional and recent approaches in the promotion of balance and strength in older adults. Traditionally, balance and resistance training programmes proved to be effective in improving balance and strength, and in reducing the number of falls. Yet, it was argued that these training protocols are not specific enough to induce adaptations in neuromuscular capacities that are specifically needed in actual balance-threatening situations (e.g. abilities to recover balance and to produce force explosively). Recent studies indicated that perturbation-based or multitask balance training and power/high-velocity resistance training have the potential to improve these specific capacities because they comply with the principle of training specificity. In fact, there is evidence that these specifically tailored training programmes are more effective in improving balance recovery mechanisms and muscle power than traditional training protocols. A few pilot studies have even shown that these recently designed training protocols have an impact on the reduction of fall incidence rate in older adults. Further research is needed to confirm these results and to elucidate the underlying mechanisms responsible for the adaptive processes.