Physical Activity Improves Balance, Postural Control
Falling is the primary cause of accidental death among the elderly population. Because balance and postural control deficits appear to be associated with the incidence of falls, the suggestion has been offered that improvement of balance or posture with physical activity may help prevent such falls.
The current paper studied this relationship, with particular emphasis on whether it is of value for the elderly to start physical and sporting activity (PSA) even at a late age in life.
Sixty-five retired subjects (43 women and 22 men, aged 60-85) participated in the study. Three series of posturographic tests (static, dynamic with a single and fast upward tilt, and dynamic with slow sinusoidal oscillations) provided data on foot pressure displacements, electromyographic response and overall balance control. Subjects were divided into four groups based on reported levels of PSA: always practiced PSA; never practiced PSA; lately started PSA; and stopped PSA at an early age.
Consistent participation in physical and sporting activity resulted in optimal postural control. Specifically, subjects who never practiced PSA had the worst balance control, whereas subjects who always practiced PSA had the best balance control. Subjects who had lately engaged in PSA had improved postural control, almost as good as those subjects who had always practiced PSA. The authors note that the period during which PSA is practiced seems to be significant, concluding, "...PSA is extremely useful for elderly people even if it has not been a lifelong habit."
Perrin PP, Gauchard GC, Perrot C. Effects of physical and sporting activities on balance control in elderly people. British Journal of Sports Medicine