Bend Don’t Break: Stretching Improves Scores on a Battery of Fall Assessment Tools in Older Adults

in Journal of Sport Rehabilitation
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Context: Falls and loss of autonomy are often attributed in large part to musculoskeletal impairments in later adulthood. Age-related declines in flexibility contribute to late adulthood musculoskeletal impairment. The novel sitting-rising test has been proposed to be a quick, effective screening of musculoskeletal fitness, fall risk, and all-cause mortality in older adults. The timed up and go and 5 times sit-to-stand tests are two of the 3 most evidence-supported performance measures to assess fall risk. Objective: This study aimed to determine if 5 weeks of flexibility training could increase sitting-rising test, timed up and go, and 5 times sit-to-stand scores in community-dwelling older adults. Participants: Forty-seven adults aged 60 years and older (mean age = 66.7 y, SD = 4.1) participated in this study. Participants completed a static stretching protocol consisting of 3 weekly 1-hour stretching sessions. Results: The protocol improved flexibility as seen in sit-and-reach scores and improved scores on all outcome variables. Specifically, there was a significant increase in sitting-rising test scores from preintervention (M = 7.45, SD = 1.45) to postintervention (M = 8.04, SD = 1.36), t(42) = −5.21, P < .001. Timed up and go scores demonstrated a significant decrease from preintervention (M = 8.85, SD = 1.32) to postintervention (M = 8.20, SD = 1.35), t(46) = 5.10, P < .001. Five times sit-to-stand scores demonstrated a significant decrease from preintervention (M = 12.57, SD = 2.68) to postintervention (M = 10.46, SD = 2.06), t(46) = 6.62, P < .001. Finally, significant increases in sit-and-reach scores were associated with improved functional performance (r = −.308, P = .03). Conclusion: Findings suggest that flexibility training can be an effective mode of low-level exercise to improve functional outcomes. Static stretching may help to improve musculoskeletal health, promote autonomy, and decrease mortality in community-dwelling older adults.

Johnson is with the Department of Physical Therapy, College of Health Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA. Hutchinson is with Results Physiotherapy, Clarksville, IN, USA. Hargett is with Craig Hospital, Englewood, CO, USA. Kosik and Gribble are with the Department of Athletic Training and Clinical Nutrition, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA.

Johnson (nathan.johnson@uky.edu) is corresponding author.
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