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Older adults’ reactive balance

...do they show fast and transferable improvements after repeated balance disturbances?

Older adults can rapidly improve their reactive balance recovery responses following repeated large balance disturbances. Improvements made during repeated disturbances to one leg can even be transferred to benefit performance when the untrained leg is disturbed. These conclusions can be drawn from our study, in which we used treadmill belt accelerations to create balance perturbations during walking. 

To do this, we used treadmill belt acceleration perturbations as shown in the figure (adapted from McCrum et al. 2018 (1)). The right leg (R) was perturbed by a treadmill belt acceleration first (pert1R), followed by eight perturbations (pert2L – pert9L) to the left leg (L), and the final perturbation (pert10R) was again applied to the right leg (R). In the key study described here, 28 older adults and 30 young adults (all healthy) were measured using this protocol.

We found that healthy older adults can improve their balance recovery responses following eight repeated balance disturbances to one leg during walking and can then perform similarly to young adults. Such rapid improvement is one of the key features underlining the potential for perturbation-based balance training in practice. We also found that older adults can transfer these improvements made from the “trained” leg to their recovery following a perturbation to the untrained leg. This retained adaptability in older age lends further support to the potential for perturbation-based balance training as an approach to fall prevention.

> From: McCrum et al., Geroscience 42 (2020) 39-49 . All rights reserved to The Author(s). Click here for the online summary.

Additional reference

(1) McCrum et al., Commun Biol 1 (2018) 230. All rights reserved to The Author(s). Click here for the free full text version.

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