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Shimada H, Obuchi S, Furuna T, Suzuki T: New intervention program for preventing falls among frail elderly people: The effects of perturbed walking exercise using a bilateral separated treadmill. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2004;83:493-499.

Objective: To determine the effects of a perturbed walking exercise using a bilateral separated treadmill in physically disabled elderly.

Design: Participants of the study were 32 long-term care facility residents and outpatients aged 66-98 yrs. Participants were randomly assigned to a usual exercise group or to a treadmill exercise group. Perturbed gait exercise on a treadmill continued for 6 mos. Number of falls and time to first fall during a 6-mo period, balance and gait functions, and reaction time were evaluated before and after intervention.

Results: The treadmill exercise group showed significant improvement in balance and reaction time when compared with the usual exercise group. Number of falls in the treadmill exercise group was 21% lower than that in the usual exercise group. However, this difference was not significant. No significant differences were seen in time to first fall.

Conclusions: Gait training with unexpected perturbation seems to have a beneficial impact on physical function in disabled elderly individuals. The results suggest that this program may be used as an exercise intervention to reduce falls in institutional settings.

(C) 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.