Can we train foot strength in older adults?
Studies showed that foot muscles also suffer from atrophy with ageing. Although these muscles remain understudied, the reduced muscle strength is likely to decrease balance and is a strong predictor of falls in older adults. There is emerging evidence that toe-strengthening exercises might improve balance and walking in older adults, however it remains unknown whether a progressive resistance training programme, focussing on the foot muscles, can improve toe flexor strength in older adults.
85 participants that were over 60 years old participated in the exercise intervention and 32 participated as controls. Participants in the exercise group attended 3 classes of 45 minutes per week that were lead by a physiotherapist, the home-exercise group received an exercise booklet. The balance time during the single leg squat,as well as toe strength were measured before and after the 12 weeks.
The study showed that the participants significantly increased their toe flexor strength and that they perceived improved general foot health within the 12 week exercise programme. The exercise as well as the home-based programme group appeared to have small improvements in balance after the treatment programme. However, the home-based programme was ineffective to increase strength, as it was non-progressive. It is believed that 1.7% body weight average increase in hallux muscle strength might have the potential to reduce falls with 12%. Future research is required to investigate this correlation and to investigate how the exercise programme improves the risk of falling.
> From: Mickle et al., Clin Biomech (2016) (Epub ahead of print). All rights reserved to Elsevier Ltd. Click here for the Pubmed summary.