Aging is associated with functional, neural and muscular deteriorations resulting in an increased fall risk. Pilates exercise training, particularly focusing on core stability, is considered a promising means to promote balance and functional performance in seniors and, thus, improve fall risk factors.
PURPOSE: To evaluate the effects of a traditional balance vs. Pilates training on postural control and core strength in community-dwelling elderly.
METHODS: Forty-eight healthy seniors (75% women) were stratified to either a balance training (BT, N=16, 69.1 (SD 5.8) y, 1.69 (0.07) m, 68.7 (13.1) kg), a Pilates training (PT, N=17, 70.8 (6.5) y, 1.66 (0.08) m, 67.8 (10.3) kg) or a control group (CON, N=15, 69.2 (6.1) y, 1.67 (0.07) m, 69.9 (10.6) kg). BT performed traditional neuromuscular balance training while PT conducted Pilates exercises for 8 weeks (two sessions (60 min) per week, attendance 91.5 (8.1) %). Before and after the intervention, static balance performance (center-of-pressure path length displacement) during single leg stance and balancing after a perturbation while kneeling, the Y-Balance test to asses dynamic balance, dynamic trunk flexion (ACSM curl-up test) as well as isometric trunk flexion (time to hold curl-up position) and extension (mod. Sorensen test) were measured.
RESULTS: Physical activity was not significantly different between groups during the intervention (p = 0.55). No practically relevant between-groups effect was observed for PT compared to CON. BT showed likely substantially positive effects for Y-Balance score (right leg, +11.6% [90% CI 2.8; 21.0], effect size (d) = 0.68; left leg, +8.4% [0.9; 16.4], d = 0.56), trunk extension (+18.0% [-2.7; 43.1], d = 0.68) and single leg stance (right leg, +39.0% [0.3; 62.6], d = 0.61; left leg, +11.2% [1.9; 19.7], d = 0.38) compared to CON. BT exceeded also PT substantially for Y-Balance score (right leg, +7.9% [0.6; 15.8], d = 0.48; left leg, +10.0% [-1.6; 22.9], d = 0.75) as well as single leg stance (right leg, +15.0% [2.3; 26.1], d = 0.61; left leg, +14.7% [4.1; 24.0], d = 0.67).
CONCLUSION: We conclude that Pilates exercise training did not result in relevant adaptations in core strength and balance performance while traditional balance training showed substantially positive effects mainly in balance measures but also in trunk extension strength.