Eleftheria Giannouli – Abstract

A novel group-based stepping exercise program to improve fall risk factors in older adults: first results of a pilot study

Giannouli E, Morat T and Zijlstra W
Institute of Movement and Sport Gerontology, German Sport University Cologne, Germany

Stepping training is one type of exercise-based interventions that is effective in reducing fall risk (1). However, it is offered mostly in form of exergames which require costly equipment and lack the benefits of the social aspect of group training. Furthermore, additional studies are needed to gain insight in dose-response relationships of stepping interventions and to develop tailored exercise programs for older adults that can easily be implemented in clinical practice.

We propose a concept for group-based stepping training that systematically addresses motor as well as cognitive aspects, that does not require costly equipment, and that as a group-based activity has social context as an additional benefit. Participants are presented with stepping patterns, which they have to memorize and implement themselves on a mat. Based on four principles, difficulty level systematically and gradually increases session by session: execution speed, pattern complexity, pattern length and execution in dual-/multi-tasking conditions. A pilot-study with 40 community-dwelling older adults (n=20 intervention group and n=20 control group) was executed to investigate its feasibility and the effects on physical, cognitive as well as psychological fall-risk factors.

First results show high levels of adherence, enjoyment, perceived effectiveness and intention to recommend as well as improvement of dual-task ability and executive functioning.

The proposed stepping training program is easy-to-administer and effective in improving some fall risk factors after 9 weeks of training. A larger randomized controlled trial over longer duration is necessary to validate the improvements reported in the current study.

  1. Okubo, Y., Schoene, D., & Lord, S. R. (2016). Step training improves reaction time, gait and balance and reduces falls in older people: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med, bjsports-2015.