Knee pain is common in older adults and usually results from osteoarthritis. Researchers at Nagoya City University in Japan investigated the effects of combined resistance and balance exercises in older adults with knee pain. 28 men and women (average 77 years old) were randomly assigned to either a control or exercise group. The exercise group participated in a 12-week program, while the control group was instructed to maintain their normal physical activity levels. Both groups were tested for muscle strength and functional fitness before and after the program. Their results were published in Physical and Occupational Therapy in Geriatrics.
The exercise program was performed once per week as a group, with at 10-minute warm-up, 20 minute resistance training, 40 minutes of balance training, and 10 minutes of cool-down. The exercise group performed the program 2 additional days per week at home. The resistance exercises consisted of 5 body-weight resistance exercises (hip flexion, hip extension, squat, heel rise, toe rise). The balance exercises were progressive challenges to the visual, vestibular, somatosensory, and muscular systems using Thera-Band Stability Trainers. The green (firm) and blue (soft) stability trainers were used to progress the levels of instability. The exercise group had an 88% adherence rate, which was positively correlated with home exercise participation. The older adults in the exercise group significantly improved their hip and knee strength (between 5% and 26%), and improved their functional ability between 9% and 27%.
Of note, knee extension strength increased 26%; this is important because quadriceps weakness is directly associated with knee osteoarthritis. More importantly, knee pain decreased by 46%. Such a reduction in knee pain may allow individuals with knee pain to exercise and continue to improve strength and function, leading to less disability. Simple body-weight exercises and progressive balance training using Thera-Band Stability Trainers can be effective at reducing knee pain and improving strength and function in older adults.
REFERENCE: Hasegawa R, et al. 2010. Effects of combined balance and resistance exercise on reducing knee pain in community-dwelling older adults. Phys Occup Ther Geriatrics. 28(1):44-56.
Disclosure: Thera-Band Academy provided the Stability Trainers used in this study.