After attending a five-week Feldenkrais program, three days per week, older adults showed significant improvements in balance and mobility, as well as a significant decrease in fear of falling. Balance confidence improved among those in the Feldenkrais program as well, although not to a statistically significant extent.

The above findings were reported in a recent study, “Effects of Feldenkrais Exercises on Balance, Mobility, Balance Confidence and Gait Performance in Community-Dwelling Adults Age 65 and Older.”

This research involved 47 subjects, with a mean age of roughly 75 years. Participants were randomly assigned to either the Feldenkrais group or a waiting-list control group. The study’s authors describe the Feldenkrais Method, in general, as a “mind-body exercise that involves gentle movements carried out in a quiet, noncompetitive environment.”

For this research, the Feldenkrais program focused primarily on “Awareness Through Movement,” a central Feldenkrais Method technique. The one-hour Feldenkrais sessions took place three days per week for five weeks, for a total of 15 sessions.

These sessions focused on sitting, reaching, walking, turning, transfers and relaxation, with a focus on improving balance and mobility, adapted to meet the needs of each individual participant.

Evaluations were conducted before the start of the study and at the end of the study. These measurements included static balance, assessed using the tandem stance; mobility, measured via performance on the Timed Up and Go; and gait characteristics, observed on the GAITRite Walkway System.

Additional outcome measures were fear of falling, measured by the Falls Efficacy Scale, and balance confidence, assessed by the Activities-Specific Balance Confidence Scale.

Results of the research revealed both balance and mobility improved significantly among those older adults in the Feldenkrais group, whereas the control group showed a decrease in balance and mobility.

Fear of falling decreased significantly among subjects in the Feldenkrais group at the end of the study; in the control group, no change was detected. As for balance confidence, the Feldenkrais group showed improvements here as well, while the scores for the control group remained the same.

In terms of gait characteristics, neither group showed any significant change from baseline to the end of the study.

“Data from the current study indicated that 15 Feldenkrais classes over five weeks led to significant improvements in balance and mobility but no change in gait characteristics,” state the study’s authors. “Additionally, there was a reduction in fear of falling and in increase in balance confidence.”

Authors: Gerhild Ullmann, Harriet G. Williams, James Hussey, J. Larry Durstine and Bruce A. McClenaghan.

Sources: Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia. Originally published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2010 (16) 1: 1-9.