Effects of a brief exercise intervention for falls prevention on balance and lower limb strength in women over 65 years in rural Greece. A pilot study

Exercise in older adults has important benefits, including maintenance of physical function and falls prevention, and is recommended at least twice per week. Older adults in rural areas in Greece may be unfamiliar with exercise regimes and are unlikely to have access to relevant information and services. As part of the ASPIDA project for falls prevention, a brief exercise and educational intervention took place in a village of Rodopi, Greece. The program consisted of 6-week x 1hour sessions of supervised group exercise. Participants also received brief education on the importance of exercise for falls prevention and were encouraged to set personal goals and perform the exercises at home. Older women were invited to participate via local social services and word of mouth. Dynamic balance (Timed-Up-and-Go) and lower limb strength (30sec chair-stand) were assessed before and after the intervention. Participants also completed a questionnaire on current physical activity (PA) before the program. A total of 16 older women ≥65 years, mean age 71.81±7, 87.5% married, 87.5% cohabiting, were assessed before and after the intervention. Based on self-reported PA, before prior to the program only 14.2% engaged in ≥1 hours/week of structured physical exercise, whereas 57.1% did not engage in any. Also, 35.7% reported walking ≥3 hours/week and another 35,7% <1hour/week. Lower limb strength showed a significant improvement, before (M=13.25)-after (M=14.56), t(15)=-2,23, p=.042. There was no statistically significant difference in dynamic balance. However, there were improvements (-0.53sec) which have clinical significance based on the normative test values, i.e. +0.3 to +0.4sec average change per 5 years in these age groups. Most participants reported incorporating some exercises in their daily routine. All were satisfied with the program and would be keen to continue if they had the opportunity. Findings show that even a low-resource intervention of short duration and frequency can have positive effects on older women’s strength and balance, raise awareness and motivate them to adopt exercise routines. Such programs are feasible with the collaboration of local services and have the potential to decrease risk of falls. Follow-up assessments will determine the extent of maintenance of exercise behaviour.

Kanavaki, A.M., Michalopoulou, M., Iliopoulos, S., Irakleous, E., Nasiou, E., Menychtas, D., Kouli, E., Gkrekidis, A., Douda, H.T., Smilios, I., Gourgoulis, V., Syrakoulis, G., Aggelousis, N.

31st International Congress on Physical Education & Sport Science
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