Balance training monitoring and individual response during unstable vs. stable balance Exergaming in elderly adults: Findings from a randomized controlled trial

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlesResearchpeer-review


Research units


Objective: Exercise-based fall prevention programs mainly refer to multimodal and challenging balance exercises. Individual load monitoring and interpretations are crucial to enable adequate adaptation responses on the individual level. Thus, assessing internal responses to external stimuli throughout an intervention period need to be adequately addressed. The aim of this secondary analysis of a 3-armed randomized controlled trial was to analyze internal and external loads of unstable vs. stable balance Exergame training in healthy seniors. We intended to elucidate whether differences of external and internal load criteria occur over the intervention period. Methods: A total of 51 healthy seniors (females: n = 34; males: n = 17; age: 69 ± 6 years; BMI: 27 ± 5) were allocated to either volitional stepping (VOL), volitional stepping under unstable conditions (VOL + US) or an inactive control group (CON). VOL and VOL + US completed 8 weeks of Exergame based step training (three weekly sessions, 45 min each) using the Dividat Senso device. Twelve different balance Exergames were used, consisting of virtual reality like video games. The original nonswinging, stable platform was employed for VOL, whereas VOL + US used an adapted Senso mounted on a swinging Posturomed Rack. The instability level was increased for VOL + US only every second week. External (game scores) and internal (perceived efforts, using the rated perceived exertion scale (RPE)) load measures were individually recorded for every session. Statistical analysis was carried out using linear mixed-effects modelling. Results: Although VOL + US completed similar games at identical training volumes under unstable conditions, the achieved game scores did not significantly differ between both training groups (p = 0.71). Both intervention groups notably improved their game scores over the 8 training weeks (p <0.01). A significant time x group interaction effect was observed for perceived effort (p <0.01), serving as an internal load measure. Subsequent post-hoc testing revealed significant greater perceived exertion values in each of the first 7 weeks (p <0.05) in VOL + US compared to VOL. No between-group differences were found for RPE in week 8. Whereas RPE values in VOL + US decreased over time (week 1: 4.6 ± 1.9; week 8: 3.1 ± 1.6), VOL indicated similar RPE values for all weeks (week 1: 3.1 ± 1.3; week 8: 2.9 ± 1.4). A detailed analysis of all twelve games revealed that differences in perceived exertion depend on the game content: in 75% of the involved games the RPE level was significantly higher in VOL + US compared to VOL (p <0.05). Conclusion: Monitoring internal and external loads on individual level are paramount for gaining adequate training adaptations. Our results indicate that between-group differences in perceived efforts a) can funnel over time, b) depend on game content and c) do not necessarily affect overall scoring. Future studies should individually employ and monitor measures of perceived efforts to guarantee an adequate challenge to the balance system within exercise-based fall prevention programs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number111037
JournalExperimental Gerontology
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 01.10.2020

ID: 5458344

View graph of relations