In this study, 72 older adults were randomly assigned to a strength training program or a postural training program. Both the strength training and postural programs were performed twice per week for 36 weeks with each session lasting 60 minutes. The strengths training program consisted of a brief warm-up, followed by low/moderate intensity exercises for both the upper and lower extremities. Postural exercises consisted of a wide range of stretches and mobilizations, including “spine stretching, hamstring and psoas muscle reinforcement, and self-stretching.” Six months later, the authors evaluated body composition, muscle mass, grip strength, along with balance measures including sway path, sway area, and sway time, and determined there were significant increases in muscle mass, strength and balance only in the strength training group. No significant differences appeared in any parameter for the postural group.
The important lesson from this study is that strength training is important not just for building muscle, but also for controlling the proprioceptive response to center of mass perturbations. The findings of the study are consistent with prior research showing that strength training effectively reduces fall risks in the elderly. In a pilot study of balance using the ToePro, researchers from Temple University showed that six weeks of foot strengthening using the ToePro by itself produce significant increases in not just toe strength, but balance assessed with the anterior reach test.