Does High Intensity Aerobic Exercise Improve Postural Control for Older Adults?




Wilson-Garcia, Mary-Catherine
Salvatore, Michael F.
Bugnariu, Nicoleta


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Purpose: While falls are a major source of disability in the aging population, walking has been linked to reduced risk of falls for older adults1-2. Treadmill walking has even been shown to positively impact muscle-strengthening, motor control, and balance3. The purpose of this investigation was to determine if a high intensity aerobic exercise program can improve postural control in older adults. Methods: Participants completed 36, 1-hour exercise sessions, 3 times a week over 3-4 months, consisting of 40 min fast pace walk/jog, with a 10 min warm-up and cool down. A high intensity at minimum 80% max heart rate was aimed for as long as possible in each session, and intensity was progressively increased during training. Postural control was assessed at baseline (V1), mid-point during exercise training (V2) and at the end of exercise training (V3) using a dynamic balance task. A V-GAIT dual-belt treadmill was used to create surface perturbations and a 12-camera Motion Analysis system collected body kinematics. Backward surface translation perturbations inducing a forward loss of balance were presented randomly at two levels (2 m/s2 and 5 m/s2). Primary outcome measures were: maximum Center of Pressure – Center of Mass (COP-COM) distance during the first compensatory step and reaction time for initiating the first compensatory step. Paired sampled t tests with significance set at p Results: Preliminary results show that maximum COP-COM distance during the first compensatory step increased significantly from an average of 9.87 ± 1.70 cm to 19.92 ± 2.40 cm as the level of perturbation increased. The reaction time for initiating the first compensatory step in response to the slowest perturbation decreased significantly between V1 (608 ± 63 ms) and V3 (543 ± 17 ms), with a similar trend but no significant change in response to the fastest perturbation. Conclusions: Larger COP-COM distances during the first compensatory step are indicative of a robust postural control.4 A high intensity aerobic consisting of walking/jogging exercise on a treadmill improved the reaction time for initiating the first compensatory step in response to balance perturbations by an average of 50 ms, which is clinically meaningful for preventing a fall.


Research Appreciation Day Award Winner - 2019 School of Health Professions, Physical Therapy Program Poster Award - 2nd place