Engineering Improved Balance Confidence in Older Adults With Complex Health Care Needs: Learning From the Muscling Up Against Disability Study

Sharon Hetherington*, Tim Henwood, Paul Swinton, Justin Keogh, Paul Gardiner, Anthony Tuckett, Kevin Rouse

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To investigate the associations of balance confidence with physical and cognitive markers of well-being in older adults receiving government-funded aged care services and whether progressive resistance plus balance training could positively influence change. Design: Intervention study. Setting: Community-based older adult–specific exercise clinic. Participants: Older adults (N=245) with complex care needs who were receiving government-funded aged care support. Interventions: Twenty-four weeks of twice weekly progressive resistance plus balance training carried out under the supervision of accredited exercise physiologists. Main Outcome Measures: The primary measure was the Activity-specific Balance Confidence Scale. Secondary measures included the Short Physical Performance Battery; fall history gathered as part of the health history questionnaire; hierarchical timed balance tests; Geriatric Anxiety Index; Geriatric Depression Scale; Fatigue, Resistance, Ambulation, Illness, Loss of Weight scale; and EuroQoL-5 dimension 3 level. Results: At baseline, better physical performance (r=.54; P<.01) and quality of life (r=.52; P<.01) predicted better balance confidence. In contrast, at baseline, higher levels of frailty predicted worse balance confidence (r=−.55; P<.01). Change in balance confidence after the exercise intervention was accompanied by improved physical performance (+12%) and reduced frailty (−11%). Baseline balance confidence was identified as the most consistent negative predictor of change scores across the intervention. Conclusions: This study shows that reduced physical performance and quality of life and increased frailty are predictive of worse balance confidence in older adults with aged care needs. However, when a targeted intervention of resistance and balance exercise is implemented that reduces frailty and improves physical performance, balance confidence will also improve. Given the influence of balance confidence on a raft of well-being determinants, including the capacity for positive physical and cognitive change, this study offers important insight to those looking to reduce falls in older adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1525-1532
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Issue number8
Early online date5 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


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