We would like to acknowledge the YMCA in Bismarck, ND for free use of their aquatic facility and water instructor and the North Dakota Physical Therapy association for their financial support.
The purpose of this study was to determine if a water-based exercise program (WEP) conducted at the YMCA would improve Berg Balance Test (BBT) scores in older women who had not previously participated in such a program.
Thirteen female subjects with a mean age of 77.5 years (range 65-89 years), all residing in assisted living facilities, completed the study. The subjects participated in the WEP for 45 minutes, 2x/week for 6 weeks. The exercise program was conducted in shallow water by a personal trainer and included active range of motion activities, walking in water and the use of water weights for strengthening. The BBT was administered to each subject 1 week prior to the onset of the WEP and 1 day post completion of the exercise protocol.
The mean score on the pre-test was 40.1 (SD=6.8); the mean score on the post-test was 50.8 (SD=4.4), which demonstrates an overall gain for the group of 10.8 points from pre to post-test. Statistical analysis using a Paired-Samples t test indicated that our results were significant (P<0.001).
The WEP significantly improved the BBT scores in our subjects supporting the hypothesis that exercise in water had a positive effect on the land-based skills assessed with the BBT. The authors recommend further study with a land-based exercise group, a water-based exercise group and a control group to help determine if there is a practice effect from the BBT pre-test on the post-test and if water exercises are more beneficial in improving BBT scores than the same exercises done on land.