Feldenkrais Method balance classes can help older adults improve balance and mobility, according to a small study published in Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2009; June 24, epub ahead of print). Research suggests that balance training may be more effective in preventing falls than either strength or endurance training. University of Melbourne scientists in Parkville, Victoria, Australia, set out to evaluate the effectiveness of the Feldenkrais Method at improving balance.
For the intervention group, investigators recruited 26 older adults with a median age of 75 years from people already enrolled in Feldenkrais Method classes. The control group consisted of 37 volunteers with a median age of 76.5 years. At baseline, all subjects were tested for balance confidence, gait speed and four square step time (the Four Square Step Test is a clinical test that involves walking in four directions and stepping over very low objects). Intervention group members then practiced Feldenkrais Method balance exercises from the “Getting Grounded Gracefully” series two times per week for 10 weeks. All subjects were retested after 10 weeks of training.
The intervention group improved significantly on all measures. Control subjects improved on four square step time. Limitations of the study included lack of randomization, since intervention participants started out with less confidence in their balance and stability and were already enrolled in Feldenkrais® classes. At baseline, control group members had higher confidence levels. Also, testers knew which subjects were allocated to each group. In spite of these limitations, however, study authors concluded that the Feldenkrais Method was useful for retraining balance and warranted further study.