Proceedings of The Physiological Society

Physiology 2014 (London, UK) (2014) Proc Physiol Soc 31, PCB149

Poster Communications

Virtual reality exercise training for elderly

P. Mi1, S. Huang2, R. Wang1, Y. Yang1

1. National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan. 2. Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan.


Deficits in balance ability and muscle strength are the important risk factors of fall in the elderly. Different exercise training models have been suggested to improve the muscle strength, balance, gait speed and endurance and decrease the incidence of falls for elderly. Previous studies suggested the integrated exercise training program is better than a single type of exercise. Virtual reality (VR) exercise training is a well-developed intervention which integrates many traditional exercise programs into virtual reality scenario to improve the balance and mobility of the older adults. Besides, VR exercise training can enhance motivation for older adults, however, the optimal training model has not been established. Previously, we noted that the VR strength training, VR endurance training, and VR balance training were almost equally effective in improving balance, walking performance and quality of life. However, the VR balance training is specifically effective in improving lower extremity muscle strength. Therefore, in this study, we further investigated the effect of combining strengthening, balance and endurance exercise in VR scenario (VR combined) as compared with balance exercise only in VR scenario (VR balance) and the control.Thirty older adults (age greater than 65 years old) were recruited and randomized to the VR balance, VR combined and control group. Both VR groups received training for 30 minutes each time, 3 times a week for 8 weeks. The control group did not receive any training. The evaluation was assessed before and after training, one month follow-up and three month follow-up. The outcomes included muscles strength of lower extremity, balance, endurance, gait performance, risk of fall, and number of fall within last 6 months. The Kruskal-Wallis one-way ANOVA by ranks was used to examine the differences between groups across different time points. The significant level was set at p<.05.Participant in VR balance group (n=10) and VR combined group (n=10) did not report any incident of falls at 3-month follow-up. However, participants in the control group (n=10) still had some incidences of falls at the follow-up period. Although both the VR combined group and VR balance group improved the lower extremity muscle strength, the group differences did not reach the significant level (p>.05). There was significant improvement in endurance in the VR balance group after training (changes in six-minutes walking test:58.85±46.38m as compared with 10.75±39.35m and 3.40±45.08m, p<.05). Nevertheless, such improvement did not maintain at the follow-ups. In contrast, VR combined training significantly improved balance performance as compared with the other two groups (changes in functional reach test: 5.70±4.27cm as compared with 1.60±2.31cm and -1.8±2.74cm, p<.05), and such improvement maintained at follow-ups. The improvement in gait speed and cadence after VR training can only be seen at 1-month follow up as compared with the control group.In conclusion, both VR balance and VR combined training exert beneficial effects on balance and walking performance in the elderly. Such VR training may also reduce fall risks in this population.

Where applicable, experiments conform with Society ethical requirements