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Objectives: To assess the effectiveness of multidirectional and variable-speed body weight supported treadmill training (BWSTT) in walking and balance rehabilitation for elderly persons with a history of falls or with perceived impaired balance.
Setting: The Bang Mueang Commune Municipality, Ban Bang Khae (Bang Khae Home for Older Persons), Rachathewa Sub-district Health Promotion Hospital, Samrong Klang Sub-district Health Promotion Hospital and Public Health Center 25 (Huai Khwang).
Study design: Retrospective study.
Subjects: Elderly persons aged 60 years or over with a history of falls or with perceived impaired balance over the past six months.
Methods: The individual participants underwent BWSTT twice a week for six weeks, the difficulty of which was adjusted step-by-step. Before the training, they were interviewed about their history of falls over the past six months and were assessed with the following tests – the Berg Balance Scale (BBS) test, Timed Up and Go Test (TUGT) and stop-watch assisted analysis of average temporal spatial gait parameters such as gait speed, cadence and step length. The tests were conducted two other times, with one carried out immediately at the end of the six weeks training and the other one six months after it (six months follow-up).
Results: Out of 233 participants (38 males and 195 females), 46 of them reported a history of falls over the past six months before their project enrollment, with an average fall rate of 0.59 falls/person/year. During the training period, no fall incident was reported; however, on the six months follow-up, 17 of them reported a fall/falls, with a rate of 0.20 falls/person/year, which was 66.10 percent lower than the average fall rate before the training. The assessments conducted immediately after the end of training and on the six months follow-up suggested that the scores of the BBS test, TUGT and the tests on comfortable gait para-meters, i.e. gait speeds, cadence and step lengths improved compared with those before the training at a statistically significant level with a p<0.001.
Conclusion: Biweekly 30-minute BWSTT over a six weeks period provided elderly persons with a history of falls or perceived impaired balance a significant improvement in walking and balance ability and a significant reduction in the fall rates at the end of the 12 training sessions and at six months follow-up.
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