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Effects of core instability strength training on trunk muscle strength, spinal mobility, dynamic balance and functional mobility in older adults.

Granacher, U., Lacroix, A., Muehlbauer, T., Roettger, K. & Gollhofer, A. (2013)

Background: Age-related postural misalignment, balance deficits and strength/power losses are associated with impaired functional mobility and an increased risk of falling in seniors. Core instability strength training (CIT) involves exercises that are challenging for both trunk muscles and postural control and may thus have the potential to induce benefits in trunk muscle strength, spinal mobility and balance performance. Objective: The objective was to investigate the effects of CIT on measures of trunk muscle strength, spinal mobility, dynamic balance and functional mobility in seniors. Methods: Thirty-two older adults were randomly assigned to an intervention group (INT; n = 16, aged 70.8 ± 4.1 years) that conducted a 9-week progressive CIT or to a control group (n = 16, aged 70.2 ± 4.5 years). Maximal isometric strength of the trunk flexors/extensors/lateral flexors (right, left)/rotators (right, left) as well as of spinal mobility in the sagittal and the coronal plane was measured before and after the intervention program. Dynamic balance (i.e. walking 10 m on an optoelectric walkway, the Functional Reach test) and functional mobility (Timed Up and Go test) were additionally tested. Results: Program compliance was excellent with participants of the INT group completing 92% of the training sessions. Significant group × test interactions were found for the maximal isometric strength of the trunk flexors (34%, p < 0.001), extensors (21%, p < 0.001), lateral flexors (right: 48%, p < 0.001; left: 53%, p < 0.001) and left rotators (42%, p < 0.001) in favor of the INT group. Further, training-related improvements were found for spinal mobility in the sagittal (11%, p < 0.001) and coronal plane (11%, p = 0.06) directions, for stride velocity (9%, p < 0.05), the coefficient of variation in stride velocity (31%, p < 0.05), the Functional Reach test (20%, p < 0.05) and the Timed Up and Go test (4%, p < 0.05) in favor of the INT group. Conclusion: CIT proved to be a feasible exercise program for seniors with a high adherence rate. Age-related deficits in measures of trunk muscle strength, spinal mobility, dynamic balance and functional mobility can be mitigated by CIT. This training regimen could be used as an adjunct or even alternative to traditional balance and/or resistance training.

Source: Gerontology 59(2), 105-113.

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