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alternative therapies elderly, dynamic balance, senior exercise
Objective: There is limited quantitative research in the field of somatic education. The aim of this pilot study was to assess the physical and psychological benefits, if any, of a relatively new somatic education program called Bones for Life®.
Methods: Twenty-five participants, with a mean age of 73, attended a 90-minute Bones for Life class, once a week for six weeks. Participants completed a general health questionnaire and the SF-36v2® Health Survey prior to performance measure testing. Timed Up and Go; turning 360°; alternating feet on a step while standing unsupported (20-Second Step Test); and standing on one leg assessed the physical performance of the subjects. A postintervention interview answering specific questions about balance, benefits, and the uniqueness of the Bones for Life program was recorded.
Results: Two movement tasks used to assess dynamic balance, the 360° Turn Test (P = .006) and the 20-Second Step Test (P = .001), demonstrated the most sensitivity to change. Changes in Quality-of-life measures were found to be statistically significant using the SF-36v2® Health Survey in the domains of Vitality (P = .026) and General Health (P = .029). Post-intervention interview revealed improved physical function, posture, and balance.
Conclusion: This pilot study exhibited positive effects among community-dwelling seniors with diverse physical capabilities and medical challenges. With minimal expense, participants achieved improvement in function and balance after 6 weeks of Bones for Life classes. Evidence suggests that Bones for Life increases the stability of organized single-leg stance during movement and successfully carries over into more challenging tasks that require a smaller base of support, like walking, turning, reaching, and climbing. Participation in Bones for Life classes has a positive influence on quality of life indicators like peace, happiness, calmness, and increased energy. The outcomes suggest that the Bones for Life program may be a safe, feasible, and effective way for seniors to improve function. This pilot study serves as a call for funding and a footprint for further investigation. It also highlights the need to research alternative approaches to movement and activities used to improve function and balance that meet the demands of the aging population and complement the current medical model.