Uncertainty of gait, impaired mobility and loss of balance. These are just a few of the physical downsides of aging. All of these lead to high prevalence of falls and injuries in the elderly. And falls lead to bone fractures that even worsen mobility impairment and overall quality of life.
Researchers at the University Hospitals and Faculty of Medicine of Geneva in Switzerland report that a special exercise might help senior citizens overcome these physical problems and improve their quality of life. According to the study authors:
“Each year, one-third of the population 65 years and older experiences at least one fall, and half of those fall repeatedly. Exercise can counteract key risk factors for falls, such as poor balance, and consequently reduce risk of falling in elderly community-dwelling individuals.”
They are recommending a “music-based multitask exercise program” which they have tried out in elderly community dwellers. The exercise is especially geared towards improving gait since most falls happen during walking. The program consisted of:
- · walking in time to the piano music
- · responding to changes in the music’s rhythm
- · walking in time to the piano music, and responding to changes in the music’s rhythm
Two groups of community-dwelling elderly people were assigned to different exercise interventions were compared. One group was assigned to the normal exercise activities (control) and the other to the music-based multitask exercise program for 6 months. During the next 6 months, the groups switched activities.
The result showed that:
- Improvements in balance and functional tests were more pronounced in the multitasking group vs. the control group.
- Walking speed increased in the multitasking group.
- Stride length increased and stride time variability decrease in the multitasking group.
- The benefits of the multitasking program persisted beyond the first 6 months, even after the interventions were switched.
This study authors concluded
“…that participation in music-based multitask exercise classes once a week over a 6-month period can improve gait performance under single and cognitive-motor, dual-task conditions, as well as improve balance, and reduce both the rate of falls and the risk of falling in at-risk elderly community-dwelling adults. Our findings suggest that this program may be useful for fall prevention and rehabilitation in community-based setting such as senior centers.”