Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Phyllis T. Croisant


Prevention of falls through balance training is of great interest to the aging population. Falls can cause debilitating injuries, such as fractures, and can also lead to the beginning of a series of health complications. These resulting complications can cause the older individual to become feeble, and susceptible to future recurring falls. There is no previous research on the effects of Swiss Ball exercises on the balance of older adults. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of an exercise regimen involving the use of Swiss Balls to improve the balance of older adults.

Eleven apparently healthy subjects over the age of sixty who had no history of falls volunteered to participate in this study. Six subjects participated in the exercise group, which involved supervised participation in a Swiss Ball exercise program for a period of 10 weeks. Five subjects participated in the control group, which did not perform any form of exercise that was new to them during the 10-week training period. Balance testing of all subjects was conducted before and after the 10-week training period. This testing included one-legged stance tests, tandem (heel-to-toe) stance tests, tandem (heel-to-toe) walking tests, a 30-meter timed walk, and 30-second chair stand test. Nine subjects completed the study. A MANOVA test was performed to determine any differences in change scores between the two groups. The results of the MANOVA test indicated that there was a significant difference between the change scores of the exercise and control groups for the 30-meter timed walk and the chair stand tests (p= .010 and .004 respectively.)

The expectation of this study was to find a significant difference in change scores between the exercise and control groups. The exercise ball training was intended to improve the function of the muscles that regulate posture and upright stance, and therefore improve the balance of the subjects who participated in the ball exercises. Although the results of this study did not reveal any significant changes in the balance of either group, a significant improvement in walking speed and the number of chair stands performed within 30 seconds was found in the exercise group after the training period. Because leg strength and walking speed are two factors that predict balance test scores, improvements in balance should have been expected. Some small improvements were found in the balance test scores of the exercise group after the training period, although the improvements were insignificant. This may be due in part to low power as the subject number in this study was small. Also, if the length of the training period had been longer, the results may have been more significant. Further study is warranted with larger population samples in order to determine if exercise ball training is an effective mode of improving balance.