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Stretching exercise program improves gait in the elderly.

Cristopoliski, Fabiano, Barela, José Angelo, Leite, Neiva, Fowler, Neil E. and Rodacki, André L. F. (2009) Stretching exercise program improves gait in the elderly. Gerontology, 55 (6). pp. 614-620. ISSN 0304-324X

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BACKGROUND: Ageing is characterized by a number of physical changes that contribute to a decline in the ability to perform daily tasks. Stretching has been proposed to reduce hip flexion contracture and increase hip and pelvis range of motion, thus improving gait performance. OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to determine whether a supervised stretching program designed to improve the range of motion of the lower limbs alters gait kinematics in older adults. METHODS: Twenty healthy older adult women (65.9 +/- 4.2 years old and BMI 24.9 +/- 3.5) were divided into 2 groups. The experimental group undertook 12 sessions of stretching exercises, whereas the control group did not engage in any physical activity. Gait performance was assessed at the beginning of the experiment and after the 4-week intervention period. RESULTS: Those in the experimental group showed increased step length, higher velocity and reduced double support time after training. In addition, participants involved in the stretching program showed greater anterior and lateral pelvis tilt and also greater rotation (p < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: Based on our results, we can suggest that a supervised stretching program is effective to alter a number of gait variables. Moreover, after the stretching protocol, aged participants displayed gait parameters which were similar to those reported in young healthy adults. Therefore, stretching can be used as an effective means to improve range of motion and reverse some age-related changes that influence gait performance.

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