There is evidence that one of the most important approaches to improving the healthy ageing of older adults is for them to carry out daily physical activity. However, motivation to engage in physical activity is often low in old age. This study investigated the potential of engaging older adults in playful exercise to increase physical activity and balance. A randomised control trial (RCT) was performed with 26 independently living older adults (initially 38, but 12 were lost to illness or death during the course of the project), mean age 83.54 (SD: 7.12), 19 women. Participants were randomly allocated to intervention (n = 16) or control (n = 12) (originally 19 in each group). The intervention consisted of playful exercise on Moto tiles 6 * 2 min twice a week over 10 weeks, while control group participants engaged in normal daily activities. The intervention group participants improved functional balance (Berg’s Balance Score) by an average of 5.02 points, and the control group by 2.58 points (p = 0.11). No between-group difference was observed in physical activities outside exercise sessions (p = 0.82). The difference in gain of balance as measured by BBS was below statistical significance, as a result of the sample size being too small. However, trial results suggest that older pre-frail and frail adults who engage in a moderate playful exercise programme over at least 10 weeks may potentially experience a modest gain in balance. Moreover, the playful exercise created a joyous social atmosphere among the participants who spontaneously remarked that the play sessions were much more fun than their standard light exercise programme of one hour twice a week. This motivational outcome is important for adherence to any exercise programme and indeed for general well-being.
Ehrari, H., Larsen, R. T., Langberg, H., & Andersen, H. B. (Accepted/In press). Effects of Playful Exercise of Older Adults on Balance and Physical Activity: a Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Population Ageing. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12062-020-09273-8