Aim: To evaluate the effects of a low cost strength training program of the dorsi- and ankle plantar flexors on muscle strength, balance and functional mobility, in elderly institutionalized subjects; and to determine the association between strength gain and balance and/or functional mobility gain.
Methods: Forty-eight volunteers were recruited and equally divided into two groups: intervention (aged 78.44 ± 3.84 years) and control (aged 79.78 ± 3.90 years). Both groups were tested at baseline and outcome for ankle dorsi- and plantar flexors muscle strength, balance and functional mobility. The intervention group participated in a 6-week program, three-sessions-per-week, of resisted ankle dorsi- and plantar flexion exercises using elastic bands.
Results: In the intervention group, maximal isometric dorsi- (from 8.4 ± 0.45 to 12.6 ± 0.95 kg; P ≤ 0.001) and plantar flexors strength (from 13.0 ± 0.85 to 17.5 ± 0.93 kg; P ≤ 0.001), balance (from 14.6 ± 0.54 to 22.3 ± 1.81 cm; P ≤ 0.001) and functional mobility (from 18.4 ± 0.51 to 11.0 ± 0.66 s; P ≤ 0.001) increased significantly after the 6-week strength training program. In the control group, no significant differences were detected. In the intervention group, a significant correlation between plantar flexor strength gain and balance gain was found (r = 0.826; P = 0.01).
Conclusion: The proposed low cost strength training of dorsi- and plantar flexors improved strength, balance and functional mobility in institutionalized elderly people; moreover, the improvement in plantar flexor strength was associated with the improvement in balance.