A consistent Pilates or proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) exercise program may improve balance in older-adult women, suggests a study
in BMC Geriatrics (2015; doi: 10.1186/s12877-015-0059-3). Researchers from the Universidade Camilo Castelo Branco, Sao Paulo, and the Universidade Estadual do Piauí, Teresina, both in Brazil, conducted the randomized controlled trial in the hope of identifying alternative ways to prevent falls and promote independent living.

Investigators randomly divided 63 women (aged 62-77) into three groups: PNF, mat Pilates and a control group. PNF and Pilates participants attended their assigned exercise program for 50 minutes three times per week for 4 weeks. Control subjects maintained their usual routines. All women underwent assessments for dynamic and static balance at baseline and 1 month after the intervention.

Compared with control subjects, PNF participants improved significantly in both dynamic and static balance, while Pilates practitioners saw significant improvement in dynamic balance only. Researchers noted that the greater complexity of Pilates mat exercises could perhaps explain the difference in results between the exercise groups: “The elderly may need a longer duration and greater number of sessions to learn and maximally benefit from the Pilates protocol.”

Study authors noted that since improvements were seen with as little as 4 weeks of practice, more studies should be conducted to determine how best to use these methods for fall prevention. Future research should include a longer intervention and larger sample sizes.