Original research| Volume 99, ISSUE 8, P1525-1532, August 2018

Engineering Improved Balance Confidence in Older Adults With Complex Health Care Needs: Learning From the Muscling Up Against Disability Study

Published:April 05, 2018DOI:



      To investigate the associations of balance confidence with physical and cognitive markers of well-being in older adults receiving government-funded aged care services and whether progressive resistance plus balance training could positively influence change.


      Intervention study.


      Community-based older adult–specific exercise clinic.


      Older adults (N=245) with complex care needs who were receiving government-funded aged care support.


      Twenty-four weeks of twice weekly progressive resistance plus balance training carried out under the supervision of accredited exercise physiologists.

      Main Outcome Measures

      The primary measure was the Activity-specific Balance Confidence Scale. Secondary measures included the Short Physical Performance Battery; fall history gathered as part of the health history questionnaire; hierarchical timed balance tests; Geriatric Anxiety Index; Geriatric Depression Scale; Fatigue, Resistance, Ambulation, Illness, Loss of Weight scale; and EuroQoL-5 dimension 3 level.


      At baseline, better physical performance (r=.54; P<.01) and quality of life (r=.52; P<.01) predicted better balance confidence. In contrast, at baseline, higher levels of frailty predicted worse balance confidence (r=−.55; P<.01). Change in balance confidence after the exercise intervention was accompanied by improved physical performance (+12%) and reduced frailty (−11%). Baseline balance confidence was identified as the most consistent negative predictor of change scores across the intervention.


      This study shows that reduced physical performance and quality of life and increased frailty are predictive of worse balance confidence in older adults with aged care needs. However, when a targeted intervention of resistance and balance exercise is implemented that reduces frailty and improves physical performance, balance confidence will also improve. Given the influence of balance confidence on a raft of well-being determinants, including the capacity for positive physical and cognitive change, this study offers important insight to those looking to reduce falls in older adults.


      List of abbreviations:

      ABC (Activity-specific Balance Confidence Scale), DNF (did not finish), DNS (did not start), FIN (finished), FRAIL (Fatigue, Resistance, Ambulation, Illness, Loss of Weight), PRBT (progressive resistance plus balance training), SPPB (Short Physical Performance Battery)
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