60-Second Science

Exercising to Music Keeps Elderly Upright

An exercise program featuring moving to music helped significantly lower the number of falls in elderly people. Cynthia Graber reports

The elderly suffer from an alarming epidemic. A third of people over 65 fall at least once a year. Half of those fall more frequently. Exercise can help, especially when they exercise to this [sound of piano]. That’s right, the elderly gain a better sense of balance when they exercise to piano music. The research was published online in the Archives of Internal Medicine. [Andrea Trombetti et al., "Effect of Music-Based Multitask Training on Gait, Balance, and Fall Risk in Elderly People"]

Scientists in Switzerland recruited 134 adults—average age about 75. For six months, half took a weekly hour-long class that focused on balance. They worked out to the piano, changing movements in response to changes in the beat. The exercises got progressively more difficult. The other group continued with their regular activities for six months.

Then the two groups switched. Those who worked out to tunes improved their gait and had longer and more stable strides. Overall, the first music-exercising group experienced half as many falls as the control group. But when the control group started striding to songs six months in, they gained the same benefits. Ninety-six percent of the participants exercising to the dulcet tones of the piano were women. So it remains to be seen if piano music can help men stay upright, too.

—Cynthia Graber

[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

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