The role of “non-traditional” physical activities in improving balance in older adults: A review

Cheryl Louise Blewitt, Nachiappan Chockalingam


Recent research indicates that the number of people aged over 60 years is rising faster than any other age group which will put increased financial and social strains on all countries. One major focus of various health and social care agencies is not only to keep these older individuals healthy but also physically active and independent. Many older people lead inactive lives which together with the aging process lead to physiological changes which have potentially damaging effects on balance control and are risk factors for falls. Research shows that physical activity improves mental health, often stimulates social contacts and can help older people remain as independent as possible. This paper has attempted to review existing research on physical activities and exercise intervention used to improve balance in older adults. Using relevant databases and keywords, 68 studies that met the inclusion criteria were reviewed. Results indicate that many traditional activities can help to improve balance in older adults. However, further investigations need to be conducted into activities that are not generally considered appropriate for older people but may be enjoyable and have health benefits and may help to improve balance in this population.




Anderson, R.L. & Fishback, E. (2010). Balance Specific Training in Water and on Land in Older Adults: A Pilot Study. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 4, 300-311.

Barnett, A., Smith, B., Lord, S.R., Williams, M. & Baumand, A. (2003). Community-Based Group Exercise Improves Balance and Reduces Falls in At-Risk Older People: A Randomised Controlled Trial. Age and Aging, 32, 407-414.

Bates, A., Eccleston, P. & Kershaw, M. (2011). BEST at Home: A Pilot Evaluation of a Home-Based Strength and Balance Exercise Program. Health Promotion Journal of Australia, 22, 3, 234-7.

Berg. K. (1989). Balance and its Measure in the Elderly: A Review. Physiotherapy Canada, 41, 5.

Berg, K.O. & Kairy, D. (2002). Balance Interventions to Prevent Falls. Generations, 26, 4, 75-78.

Bergamin, M., Ermolao, A., Tolomio, S., Berton, L., Sergi, G. & Zaccaria, M. (2013). Water-Versus Land-Based Exercise in Elderly Subjects: Effects on Physical Performance and Body Composition. Clinical Interventions in Aging, 8, 1109-17.

Bird, M., Hill, K., Ball, M. & Williams, A.D. (2009). Effects of Resistance- and Flexibility- Exercise Interventions on Balance and Related Measures in Older Adults. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 17, 444-454.

Bird, M., Hill, K., Ball, M., Hetherington, S. & Williams, A.D. (2011). The Long-Term Benefits of a Multi-Component Exercise Intervention to Balance and Mobility in Healthy Older Adults. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 52, 2, 211-216.

Bissonnette, D.R., Weir,P.L., Leigh, L. & Kenno, K. (2010). The Effects of a Whole-Body Advanced Vibration Exercise Program on Flexibility, Balance, and Strength in Seniors. Physical & Occupational Therapy in Geriatrics, 28, 3 225-234.

Buatois, S., Gauchard, G.C., Aubry, C., Benetos, A. & Perrin, P. (2007). Current Physical Activity Improves Balance Control During Sensory Conflicting Conditions In Older Adults. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 28, 1, 53-8.

Bulbulian, R. & Hargan, M.L. (2000). The Effect of Activity History and Current Activity on Static and Dynamic Postural Balance in Older Adults. Physiology & Behavior, 70, 319-325.

Carlson, S.A., Kruger, J., Kohl,III, H.W. & Buchner, D.M. (2006). Cross-Sectional Relationship Between Physical Activity and Falls in Older Adults, United States 2003. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 3, 390-404.

Cromwell, R.L., Meyers, P.M., Meyers, P.E & Newton, R.A. (2007). Tae Kwon Do: An Effective Exercise for Improving Balance and Walking Ability in Older Adults. Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences & Medical Sciences, 62, 6, 641-6.

DiBrezzo, R., Shadden, B.B., Raybon, B.H. & Powers, M. (2005). Exercise Intervention Designed to Improve Strength and Dynamic Balance Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 13, 198-209.

Eyigor, S., Karapolat, H., Durmaz, B., Ibisoglu, U. & Cakir, S. (2009). A Randomized Controlled Trial of Turkish Folklore Dance on the Physical Performance, Balance, Depression and Quality of Life in Older Women. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 48, 1, 84 – 8.

Gardner, M.M., Buchner, D.M., Robertson, M.C. & Campbell, A.J. (2001). Practical Implementation of an Exercise-Based Falls Prevention Programme. Age & Ageing, 30, 1, 77-83.

Gomes da Silva Borges, E., Cader, S.A., Gomes de Souza Vale, R., Cruz, T.H.P., Mauro Cezar de Gurgel de Alencar Carvalho, Pinto, F.M. & Dantas, E.H.M. (2012). The Effect of Ballroom Dance on Balance and Functional Autonomy Among the Isolated Elderly. Archives of Gerentology and Geriatrics, 55, 492-496.

[18] Granacher, U., Muehlbauer, T., Bridenbaugh, S.A., Wolf, M., Gschwind, Y., Wolf, I., Mata, R. & Kressig, R.W. (2012). Effects of Salsa Dance Training on Balance and Strength Performance in Older Adults. Gerentology, 58, 4, 305-12.

Hallage, T., Krause, M. P., Haile, L., Miculis, C. P., Nagle, E. F. & Reis, R. (2010). The Effects Of 12 Weeks Of Step Aerobics Training On Functional Fitness Of Elderly Women. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24, 8, 2261-2266.

Hayashi, D., Goncalves, C.G., Parreira. R.B., Fernandes, K.B.P., Teixeira, D.C., Silva, R.A. & Probst, V.S. (2012). Postural Balance and Physical Activity in Daily Life (PADL) in Physically Independent Older Adults with Different Levels of Aerobic Exercise Capacity. Archives of Gerentology and Geriatrics, 55, 480-485.

Hoeppner, S.C. & Rimmer, J.H. (2000). Postural Balance and Self-Reported Exercise in Older Adults. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, 17, 69-77.

Hopkins, D. R., Murrah, B., Werner W. K. Hoeger,W.W.K. & Rhodes, R. C. (1990). Effect of Low-Impact Aerobic Dance on the Functional Fitness of Elderly Women. The Gerontologist, 30, 2, 189-192.

Hsu, H.C., Chou, S.W., Chen, C.P., Wong, A.M., Chen, C.K. & Hong, J.P. (2010). Effects of Swimming on Eye Hand Coordination and Balance in the Elderly. Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging, 14, 8, 692-5.

Islam, M.M., Takeshima, N., Rogers, M.E., Koizumi, D. & Rogers, N.L. (2004). Relationship Between Balance, Functional Fitness, and Daily Physical Activity in Older Adults. Asian Journal of Exercise & Sports Science, 1, 1, 9- 18.

Jancey, J.M., Clarke, A., Howat, P., Maycock, B. & Lee. A.H. (2009). Perceptions of Physical Activity by Older Adults: A Qualitative Study. Health Education Journal, 68, 3, 196-206.

Judge, J.O., Lindsey, C., Underwood, M & Winsemius, D. (1993). Balance Improvements in Older Women: Effects of Exercise Training. Physical Therapy, 73, 4, 254-62.

Kahle, N. & Tevald, M.A. (2014). Core Muscle Strengthening’s Improvement of Balance Performance in Community-Dwelling Older Adults: A Pilot Study. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 22, 1, 65-73.

Kaneda, K., Sato, D., Wakabayashi, H., Hanai, A. & Nomura, T. (2008). A Comparison of the Effects of Different Water Exercise Programs on Balance Ability in Elderly People. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 16, 381-392.

Kattenstroth, J.C., Kalisch, T., Holt, S., Tegenthoff, M. & Dinse, H.R. (2013). Six Months of Dance Intervention Enhances Postural, Sensorimotor and Cognitive Performance in Elderly Without Affecting Cardio-Respiratory Functions. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 26, 5, 5.

Keogh, J.W.L., Kilding, A., Pidgeon, L.A. & Gillis, D. (2009). Physical Benefits of Dancing for Healthy Older Adults: A Review. Journal of Aging and Physical activity, 17, 479-500.

King, A.C., Haskell, W.L., Taylor, B., Kraemer, H.C. & DeBusk, R.F. (1991). Group-vs Home-Based Exercise Training in Healthy Older Men and Women. Journal of the American Medical Association, 266, 11, 1535-1542.

Kramer, B.J., Creekmur, B., Mitchell, M.N., Rose, D.J., Pynoos, J. & Rubenstein, L.Z. (2014). Community Fall Prevention Programs: Comparing Three InSTEP Models by Levels of Intensity. Journal of Aging andPhysical Activity, 22, 3, 372-9.

Lamoth, C.J.C. & van Heuvelen, M.J.G. (2012). Sports Activities are Reflected in the Local Stability and Regularity of Body Sway: Older Ice-Skaters Have Better Postural Control Than Inactive Elderly. Gait & Posture, 35, 489-493.

Liu, H. & Frank, A. (2010). Tai Chi as a Balance Improvement Exercise for Older Adults: A Systematic Review. Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy, 33, 3, 103-109.

McKinley, P., Jacobson, A., Leroux, A. Bednarczyk, V. Rossignol, M. & Fung, J. (2008). Effect of a Community-Based Argentine Tango Dance Program on Functional Balance and Confidence in Older Adults. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 16, 4, 435-53.

Means, K.M., Rodell, D.E. & O’Sullivan, P.S. (2005). Balance, Mobility, and Falls Among Community-Dwelling Elderly Persons: Effects of a Rehabilitation Exercise Program. American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, 84, 4, 238-250.

Melzer, I., Benjuya, N. & Kaplanski, J. (2003). Effects of Regular Walking on Postural Stability in the Elderly. Gerontology, 49, 4, 240-5.

Merom, D., Cosgrove, C., Venugopal, K. & Bauman, A. (2012). How Diverse was the Leisure Time Physical Activity of Older Australians Over the Past Decade? Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 15, 213-219.

Merom,D., Pye, V., Macniven, R., van der Ploeg, H., Milat,A., Sherrington, C., Lord, S. & Bauman, A. (2012). Prevalence and Correlates of Participation in Fall Prevention Exercise/Physical Activity by Older Adults. Preventitive Medicine, 55, 613-617.

Merom, D., Cumming, R., Mathieu, E., Anstey, K.J., Rissel, C., Simpson, J.M., Morton, R.L., Cerin, E., Sherrington, C. & Lord, S.R. (2013). Can Social Dancing Prevent Falls in Older Adults? A Protocol of the Dance, Aging, Cognition, Economics (DAnCE) Fall Prevention Randomised Controlled Trial. BMC Public Health, 15, 13, 477.

Nelson, M.E., Rejeski, W.J., Blair, S.N., Duncan, P.W., Judge, J.O., King, A.C., Macera, C.A. & Castaneda-Sceppa, C. (2007). Physical Activity and Public Health in Older Adults: Recommendation from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 39, 8, 1435-1445.

Paillard, T., Lafont, C., Costes-Salon, M.c., Riviere, D. & Dupui, P. (2004). Effects of Brisk Walking on Static and Dynamic Balance, Locomotion, Body Composition and Aerobic Capacity in Ageing Healthy Active Men. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 25, 7, 539-46.

Pau, M., Leban, B., Collu, G. & Migliaccio, G.M. (2014). Effect of Light and Vigorous Physical Activity on Balance and Gait of Older Adults. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 59, 3, 568-73.

Perrin, P.P., Gauchard, G.C., Perrot, C. & Jeandel, C. (1999). Effects of Physical and Sporting Activities on Balance Control in Elderly People. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 33, 121-126.

Pluchino, A., Lee, S.Y., Asfour, S., Roos, B.A. & Signorile J.F. (2012). Pilot Study Comparing Changes in Postural Control After Training Using a Video Game Balance Board Program and 2 Standard Activity-Based Balance Intervention Programs. Archives of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, 93, 7, 1138-1146.

Robitaille, Y., Laforest, S., Fournier, M., Gauvin, L., Parisien, M., Corriveau, H., Trickey, F. & Damestoy, N. (2005). Moving Forward in Fall Prevention: An Intervention to Improve Balance Among Older Adults in Real-World Settings. American Journal of Public Health, 95,11,2049-2056.

Roma, M.F.B., Busse, A.L., Betoni, R.A., de Melo, A.C., Kong, J., Santarem, J.M. & Filho, W.J. (2013). Effects of Resistance Training and Aerobic Exercise in Elderly People Concerning Physical Fitness and Ability: A Prospective Clinical Trial. Einstein, 11, 2, 153-7.

Rose, D.J. (2008). Preventing Falls Among Older Adults: No “One Size Suits All” Intervention Strategy. Journal of Rehabilitation Research & Development, 45, 8, 1153-1166.

Seco, J., Abecia, L.C., Echevarria, E., Barbero, I., Torres-Unda, J., Rodriguez, V. & Calvo, J.I. (2013). A Long-Term Physical Activity Training Program Increases Strength and Flexibility and Improves Balance in Older Adults. Rehabilitation Nursing, 38, 1, 37-47.

Sherrington, C., Teidemann, A., Fairhall,N., Close, J.C.T. & Lord, S.R. (2011). Exercise to prevent falls in older adults: an updated meta-analysis and best practice recommendations. NSW Public Health Bulletin, 22, 3-4.

Sherrington, C., Whitney, J.C., Lord, S.R., Herbert, R.D., Cumming, R.G. & Close, J.C.T. (2008). Effective Exercise for the Prevention of Falls: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 56, 12, 2234-2243.

Shigematsu, R., Chang, M., Yabushita, N., Sakai, T., Nakagaichi, M., Nho, H. & Tanaka, K. (2002). Dance-Based Aerobic Exercise May Improve Indices of Falling Risk in Older Women. Age and Ageing, 31, 4, 261-6.

Silveira, P., van het Reve, E., Daniel, F., Casati, F. & de Bruin, E.D. (2012). Motivating and Assisting Physical Exercise in Independently Living Older Adults: A Pilot Study. International Journal of Medical Informatics, 11, 1-10.

Smith, S.T., Sherrington, C., Studenski, S., Schoene, D. & Lord, S.R. (2011). A Novel Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) System for In-Home Training of Stepping Ability: Basic Parameters of System Use by Older Adults. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 45, 441-445.

Studenski, S., Perera, S., Hile, E., Keller, V., Spadola-Bogard, J. & Garcia, J. (2010). Interactive Video Dance Games for Healthy Older Adults. The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, 14, 10, 850-852.

Taggart, H. (2002). Effects of Tai Chi Exercise on Balance, Functional Mobility, and Fear of Falling Among Older Women. Applied Nursing Research, 15, 4, 235-242.

Taylor-Piliae, R.E., Newell, K.A., Cherin, R., Lee, M.J., King, A.C. & Haskell, W.L. (2010). Effects of Tai Chi and Western Exercise on Physical and Cognitive Functioning in Healthy Community-Dwelling Older Adults. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 18, 3, 261-79.

Tiedemann, A., O’Rourke, S., Sesto, R., & Sherrington, C. (2013). A 12-Week Lyengar Yoga Program Improved Balance and Morbility in Older Community-Dwelling People: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial. The Journals of Gerentology, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 68, 9, 1068-75.

Toto, P.E., Raina, K. D., Holm, M.B., Schlenk, E.A., Rubinstein, E.N. & Rogers, J.C. (2012). Outcomes of a Multicomponent Physical Activity Program for Sedentary, Community-Dwelling Older Adults. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 20, 363-378.

Toulotte, C., Toursel, C. & Olivier, N. (2012). Wii Fit Training vs. Adapted Physical Activities: Which One is the Most Appropriate to Improve the Balance of Independent Senior Subjects? A Randomized Controlled Study. Clinical Rehabilitation, 26, 9, 827-835.

Tsang, W.W. & Hui-Chan, C.W (2004). Effects of Exercise on Joint Sense and Balance in Elderly Men: Tai Chi versus Golf. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 36, 4, 658-67.

Tsang, W.W. & Hui-Chan, C.W. (2010). Static and Dynamic Balance Control in Older Golfers. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 18, 1, 1-13.

Virag, A., Karoczi, C.K., Jakab, A., Vass, Z., Kovacs, E. & Gondos, T. (2014). Short-Term And Long-Term Effects of Nordic Walking Training on Balance, Functional Mobility, Muscle Strength and Aerobic Endurance among Hungarian Community-Living Older People: A Feasibility Study. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, Oct 10.

Wolf, B., Feys, H., De Weerdt, W., van der Meer, J., Noom, M. & Aufdemkampe, G. (2001). Effect of a Physical Therapeutic Intervention for Balance Problems in the Elderly: A Single-Blind, Randomized, Controlled Multicentre Trial. Clinical Rehabilitation, 15, 624-636.

World Health Organisation (2010). Global Recommendation on Physical Activity for Health Available via Accessed 4th February 2013.

Yang, X.J., Hill, K., Moore, K., Williams, S., Dowson, L., Borschmann, K., Simpson, J.A. & Dharmage, S.C. (2012). Effectiveness of a Targeted Exercise Intervention in Reversing Older People’s Mild Balance Dysfunction: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Physical Therapy, 92, 1, 24-37.

Yu, D.H. & Yang, H.X. (2012). The Effect of Tai Chi Intervention on Balance in Older Males. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 1, 57-60.

Zhang, J.G., Ishikawa-Takata, K., Yamazaki, H., Morita, T. & Ohta, T. (2008). Postural Stability and Physical Performance in Social Dancers. Gait & Posture, 27, 697-701.



  • There are currently no refbacks.