As people age, they lose the anticipatory postural control - the ability to ready themselves to maintain balance. In effect, the resources for maintaining balance become more limited, and people become less stable and more prone to falls.
"Our group is the first to look at whether a specially designed rehabilitation protocol can enhance postural control adjustment and subsequently improve overall balance," said Alexander Aruin, professor of physical therapy at University of Illinois at Chicago.
The researchers asked a group of healthy young adults to stand and catch a medicine ball. In the another study, they asked the same of a group of healthy older adults. The researchers measured the electrical activity of leg and trunk muscles to look for differences in the two age groups' ability to generate anticipatory postural adjustments both before and after the single short training session.
Training-related improvements were seen in both groups. In older adults, the researchers found that not only can they improve, but they also improve at performing a task that was not part of the training."There was a transfer effect," Aruin said. The findings appeared online in two journals: Electromyography and Kinesiology, and Experimental Brain Research.