Objective: To study the effects of whole-body vibration exercises on the mobility function, balance and general health status, and its feasibility as an intervention in frail elderly patients.
Design: Pilot randomized controlled trial.
Subjects: Forty-four frail older persons (85.27 ± 3.63 years) meeting the Fried Frailty Criteria.
Interventions: All eligible subjects were randomly assigned to the experimental group, who received a whole-body vibration exercise alone (vibration amplitude: 1-3 mm; frequency: 6-26 Hz; 4-5 bouts × 60 seconds; 3-5 times weekly), or a control group, who received usual care and exercises for eight weeks.
Main measures: The Timed Up and Go Test, 30-second chair stand test, lower extremities muscle strength, balance function, balance confidence and General Health Status were assessed at the beginning of the study, after four weeks and eight weeks of the intervention.
Results: Whole-body vibration exercise reduced the time of the Timed Up and Go Test (40.47 ± 15.94 s to 21.34 ± 4.42 s), improved the bilateral knees extensor strength (6.96 ± 1.70 kg to 11.26 ± 2.08 kg), the posture stability (surface area ellipse: 404.58 ± 177.05 to 255.95 ± 107.28) and General Health Status (Short-form Health Survey score: 24.51 ± 10.69 and 49.63 ± 9.85 to 45.03 ± 11.15 and 65.23 ± 9.39, respectively). The repeated-measures ANOVA showed that there were significant differences in the Timed Up and Go Test, 30-second chair stand test, bilateral knees extensor strength, activities-specific balance confidence score and general health status between the two groups (P < 0.05). No side-effects were observed during the training.
Conclusions: Whole-body vibration exercise is a safe and effective method that can improve the mobility, knee extensor strength, balance and the general health status in the frail elderly.
Keywords: Whole-body vibration; balance; elderly; exercise; frail elderly; health status; lower extremity; mechanical oscillation; muscle strength; musculoskeletal system.