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J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 1996 Sep;51(5):M233-8.

Effectiveness of water exercise on postural mobility in the well elderly: an experimental study on balance enhancement.

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Department of Physical Therapy, Northern Arizona University, USA.



The fear of falling may cause elderly people to limit their movement. As movement errors are known to facilitate the acquisition of motor skills, the elderly may inadvertently cause the loss of postural skills by constraining their movements, and hence avoid potential movement errors. It was hypothesized that by having elderly individuals exercise in a risk-free environment-water was utilized in this experiment-their postural capabilities would improve.


Four groups of elderly subjects (80 +/- 5.8 years old) were placed into four groups: Water Exercisers; Land Exercisers; Water Sitters; and Land Sitters. Each group met twice per week for 45 minutes for 5 weeks of simple exercises or socializing in the designated medium. The distance each individual could reach (Functional Reach, FR) was measured at the end of each week.


Initially, each group was at risk (FR < 10 inches) for falling Statistical testing showed that the Water Exercisers (WE) increased their FR almost every week; the Land Exercisers (LE) increased only during the first week; and the Water Sitters (WS) and Land Sitters (LS) did not increase at all. The FRs after 5 weeks were 13.4 +/- 1.6 (WE), 11.3 +/- 1.5 (LE), 9.6 +/- 1.3 (WS), and 9.3 +/- 0.71 (LS) inches for each group, respectively.


The data showed that the postural capabilities in these elderly people, as measured by the FR, were enhanced by the production of movement errors that was facilitated in a water environment (in the case of the Water groups) or the initiation of a novel exercise program (Land Exercisers). Alternative explanations, and implication of these results, are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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