Aquatic and Land Exercises Improve Balance, Function in Older Women With Osteoporosis
By Pippa Wysong
Aquatic exercises improve balance in postmenopausal women, and they may indirectly help prevent falls, according to a study presented here at the 25th annual meeting of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.
But researchers also say that exercise in the gym helps improve daily function, showing that there are different sorts of benefits from water exercises compared with those performed on land. A study comparing water and land exercises was presented by Cathy Arnold, MSc, assistant professor of physical therapy at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada.
A total of 73 women were randomized into one of three groups: those who underwent an aquatic exercise program, those who exercised in a gym, and a control group. Both exercise groups met three times a week for five consecutive weeks, and the groups had similar numbers of participants.
The subjects were a mean age of 69 years, 60% reported spine or joint pain, 80% were receiving a medication for osteoporosis, 30% had fallen in the past six months, and 50% had a history of fracture.
At baseline, various measures of function and quality of life were done, including posture, balance, function, and strength. The measures were repeated at the end of the study.
Both land and water exercises were made up of upper and lower limb strengthening, trunk strengthening, posture correction, walking, balance activities, and functional activities to help with balance and strength, Ms. Arnold said.
Both exercise programs resulted in improved health satisfaction, and there were no significant differences between exercise and control groups for overall balance, strength, posture, and bone status.
But the women in the aquatic program improved on measures of lateral balance, something that can help prevent falls, Ms. Arnold said. Land exercises helped with daily tasks, such as getting up out of chairs or walking up stairs.
Women were comfortable doing the aquatic exercises, in part because they weren't worried about falling while being active. In the land group, two of the women fell during the program.
"Women felt safe and confident in water in being able to move. It may be a useful environment for some women to start off in that type of environment and progress to something else on land that's a bit more challenging," she said.
Aquatic exercises can help with balance, but they don't help improve bone density, said Ari Heinonen, PhD, professor of physiotherapy at the University of Iyvaskla in Finland. He was not involved in the study.
To get the greatest benefit, women should do exercises that also include higher impact activities to help with bone density. But exercises that improve balance are very useful too, Dr. Heinonen said.
The study was funded by the Saskatchewan Health Services Utilization and Research Commission.
25th ASBMR: Abstract M338. Presented Sept. 22, 2003.
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