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Pilates and Fall Prevention

Weekly training reduces risks for older adults.

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As many as one-third of all adults over 65 years old fall each year, with consequences that include serious injury, limited activity and significant costs. Researchers at California State University, Northridge, conducted a study that shows that Pilates reformer training—as little as once per week—can effectively reduce these risks. The randomized controlled trial’s purpose was to evaluate whether Pilates-based exercises using the reformer can improve static and dynamic balance, increase balance confidence and functional mobility, and reduce fall risk among aging adults who were at risk for falls.

Investigators randomly assigned 55 men and women with a mean age of 77 years to either a control group or a Pilates training group. Control group members made no lifestyle changes. Pilates participants took a 1-hour group reformer class once per week for 10 weeks. Researchers took several measures of balance, postural control, balance confidence and functional mobility at baseline and postintervention. Data analysis showed reduced fall risks and significant improvement in static and dynamic balance, functional mobility, balance self-efficacy, and lower-extremity active range of motion. Study authors noted that owing to costs and equipment access, subjects trained only once per week; however, participants stated that they felt their improvements would have been more substantial with twice-a-week trainings. More research is recommended.

The study appeared in the Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies (2018; doi: 10.1016/jjbmt.2017.09.004).

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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