UMaine researchers use exercise group to study fall risk in seniors

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ORONO, Maine (WABI) - "All interventions help in terms of anyone doing an exercise program. We're trying to find the ones that help the most."

Chris Nightingale is an assistant professor with the University of Maine.

"My research area actually looks at balance and fall risk with seniors."

With help from undergraduate students he has been leading an exercise group at Orono Commons, a nursing and rehabilitation center.

"We started back in April and we did some testing with them then to evaluate their balance."

The team is hoping to learn more about whether the group exercises can improve seniors' balance and reduce fall risk. Will Prescott, one of the undergraduate students helping with the study, says they keep to basic exercises.

"Very simple and also we stress that we can cater them to their individual needs."

Vivian Guay is one of the participants in the program.

"They told me if it hurts just sit and take it easy."

"We're really working on strengthening different muscles that might be used to keep someone from falling." says Nightingale. "So we want to use their arms if they're using a walker or strengthen their legs when we do some standing exercises."

They also use a system called OptoGait to gather specific information.

"Hook them up and have them walk from one end to the other and it can collect very sensitive data that we can use to determine how variable someone's steps are how good their balance is. And if they're at risk for falling."

Guay says she feels better after a session.
"I like the people here from the college."

"Beyond the physical benefits that we're looking for I think just the chance to interact with some different people I think our residents really appreciate that."

Some of the participants even break into song.

"I'd hear them singing before I even saw them." says Prescott. "So it's always a good time and we leave feeling just as good as they do I think."

The study will conclude next month and the team will begin analyzing the data.