Melbourne, June 30 : Older people may reduce the risk of falls by spending less than 10 minutes standing on a vibrating platform several times a week, according to a new Australian study.
"We're trying to look at interventions to assist with physical function in old age," ABC Online quoted PhD student Sven Rees of the University of Technology in Sydney as saying.
Reporting the study's findings in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, the researcher said that people's likelihood of losing balance and muscle strength increases as they age, which makes them more likely to fall over.
Referring to a previous study, Rees said that vibration of muscles could cause reflex contractions, which in turn strengthens the muscles.
Along with his colleagues, he tested the theory in a group of 43 healthy men and women aged in their 70s. The researchers tested how steadily participants were able to stand on one leg.
Later, Rees and his colleagues got some of the participants to do light resistance training on a vibrating platform.
The volunteers stood still with bent knees on the platform, then they squatted up and down, and went up and down on their toes.
The researchers also made another group do the same exercises without the vibrating platform.
The exercise sessions lasted for less than 10 minutes, and took place three times a week for eight weeks.
Upon testing the leg strength of the participants once again, the researchers found that people trained on the vibration platform had a significantly improved ability to stand on one leg.
Rees said that the worse someone was at standing on one leg before training, the better their improvement was after training.
He made it clear that the platform would not necessarily be a "silver bullet" to reduce the risk of falls, but that it might serve as a tool for older people who could not make it to the gym.
Rees, however, warned people against buying off-the-shelf vibration equipment.
He said that the platform he used in his study had a particular amplitude and frequency of vibration that was designed to strengthen muscles without causing any damage to the body.
He revealed that his team's next step would be to test larger groups of people over a longer term, and work out how best to optimise the amplitude and frequency of the platform to strengthen leg muscles.