Purpose: The purpose of this randomized controlled trial was to measure the effectiveness of A Matter of Balance, a small-group based balance program, on muscle strength, gait, balance, and fall risk among older community-dwelling adults at risk for falls. A secondary aim was to measure the effects of the program on actual fall rates over the 3-month study.
Methods: Twenty-three older adults were randomly assigned to either an experimental group that participated in a 12-week small-group based balance program or a control group. Subjects were assessed at baseline and following an intervention using the following outcome measures: lower extremity manual muscle testing (MMT) and range of motion; gait analysis on the GAITRite system; balance parameters on the SMART EquiTest, the Timed Up and Go test, the Berg Balance Scale, and incidence of falls.
Results: A repeated measures ANOVA revealed that there was a significant interaction between groups over time in the Berg Balance Scale scores, P < or = .05. The experimental group improved over time (48.1 to 52.9/56, respectively), whereas the control group decreased in performance (49.1 to 47.8/56, respectively), P < or = .05. The mean number of falls was significantly less in the experimental group during the intervention compared with the control group (0.09 and 0.50, respectively), P < or = .05.
Conclusions: A community-based multifactorial intervention including individualized fall risk assessment, exercise, and home assessment appears to safely and effectively reduce the number of falls, resulting in significant improvements in functional balance ability and decreased fall risk.