As age catches up with us, falling becomes a bigger worry and problem. The negative consequences of falls are much more impactful in elderly individuals as it could cause the loss of independent living and reduced quality of life, just to name a few. The most prevalent risk factors that we can intervene and modify are balance impairment and muscle weakness. This is highly common and becomes even more prevalent with age if we lead a sedentary lifestyle.
Age-related declines in sensory and motor function can result in increased postural sway, an indicator of balance impairment and a predictor of falls in the elderly. However, textured insoles have been found to significantly decrease anteroposterior and mediolateral postural sway parameters in older adults, especially in more challenging tasks. These studies illustrate how textured insoles, such as the ones offered by Naboso, could elicit functional benefits on balance control and therefore reduce the risk of falls. This is due to the indenting protrusions of the textured insoles providing enhanced tactile stimulation to the mechanoreceptors of the feet, in turn providing the central nervous system with vital information regarding the location of peak foot pressure relative to alterations in upright body position (Gross et al., 2012; Hatton et al., 2012; Kavounoudias et al., 1998; Qiu et al., 2012). The stimulation of the plantar cutaneous receptors increasing afferent feedback was also suggested to decrease reaction time during dynamic balance (Nagano & Begg, 2018), indicating the significance on the prevention of falls. Furthermore, a slower and more cautious gait was observed in older fallers when wearing textured insoles in Hatton et al.’s (2012) study, with gait velocity decreasing by -4.20 cm.s-1.
Physical activity and exercise have been shown to provide significant benefits for the aging population, where strength and balance training are identified to be the most effective intervention to counteract the risk factors of falling. Increasingly, whole-body vibration, a new type of exercise has been suggested and tested in its efforts to prevent bone fractures and osteoporosis in frail people. In a study testing untrained post-menopausal women, bone mineral density increased by 4.3% and balance improved by 29% after 8 months of whole-body vibration exercise 3 times per week (Gusi et al., 2006). This is henceforth significant as it proves its effectiveness in improving two major determinants of bone fractures, hip bone mineral density and balance. Vibratory stimuli have also previously resulted in a significant decrease of center of mass displacement on both the antero-posterior and medio-lateral planes, thus suggesting its abilitiy in improving gait stability, reducing the incidence of falls (Yu et al., 2010).
The power plate is an example of whole-body vibration exercise. It is a medically certified harmonic vibrating platform that triggers immediate contractions of working and stabilizing muscles, resulting in positive improvements in strength, balance, flexibility, postural control, circulation and coordination. Furthermore, harmonic vibration has previously been suggested to induce positive hormonal responses. This is a device ideal for the elderly as the power plate amplifies benefits of any smaller movements without any additional weights, keeping it safe for older users who might have limited physical mobility or concerned about the risk of falling or injuries from larger, more dynamic movements. The power plate stimulates natural reflexes, increases muscle activation and improves circulation, being an accessible training tool scientifically proven to improve gait, muscle strength and power, postural control and balance, all necessary elements in fall prevention.
Gross, M. T., Mercer, V. S., & Lin, F.-C. (2012). Effects of foot orthoses on balance in older adults. The journal of orthopaedic and sports physical therapy, 42(7), 649-657. https://doi.org/10.2519/jospt.2012.3944
Gusi, N., Raimundo, A., & Leal, A. (2006). Low-frequency vibratory exercise reduces the risk of bone fracture more than walking: a randomized controlled trial. BMC musculoskeletal disorders, 7(1), 92-92. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2474-7-92
Hatton, A. L., Dixon, J., Rome, K., Newton, J. L., & Martin, D. J. (2012). Altering gait by way of stimulation of the plantar surface of the foot: the immediate effect of wearing textured insoles in older fallers. Journal of foot and ankle research, 5(1), 11-11. https://doi.org/10.1186/1757-1146-5-11
Kavounoudias, A., Roll, R., & Roll, J. P. (1998). The plantar sole is a ‘dynamometric map’ for human balance control. Neuroreport, 9(14), 3247-3252. https://doi.org/10.1097/00001756-199810050-00021
Nagano, H., & Begg, R. K. (2018). Shoe-insole technology for injury prevention in walking. Sensors (Basel, Switzerland), 18(5), 1468. https://doi.org/10.3390/s18051468
Qiu, F., Cole, M. H., Davids, K. W., Hennig, E. M., Silburn, P. A., Netscher, H., & Kerr, G. K. (2012). Enhanced somatosensory information decreases postural sway in older people. Gait & posture, 35(4), 630-635. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gaitpost.2011.12.013
Yu, M., Piao, Y.-J., Eun, H.-i., Kim, D.-W., Ryu, M.-h., & Kim, N.-G. (2010). Development of abnormal gait detection and vibratory stimulation system on lower limbs to improve gait stability. Journal of medical systems, 34(5), 787-797. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10916-009-9293-6