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JFSF Vol 4, No 4, December 2019, p.102-110

doi: 10.22540/JFSF-04-102


Original Article

Changes in physical activity predict changes in a comprehensive model of balance in older community-dwelling adults. A longitudinal analysis of the TILDA study

Ilona I. McMullan1, Brendan P. Bunting1, Suzanne M. McDonough2,3,4, Mark A. Tully1,5, Karen Casson6

  1. UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health (NI), Ulster University, UK
  2. Institute of Nursing and Health Research, Ulster University, UK
  3. School of Physiotherapy, University of Otago, New Zealand
  4. School of Physiotherapy, Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland
  5. Institute of Mental Health Services, Ulster University, UK
  6. Institute of Nursing and Health Research, Ulster University, UK

Keywords: Falls, Low-intensity physical activity, TILDA


Objective: Falls due to poor balance can cause injury, disability, and death in older adults. The relationship between free-living physical activity (PA) and balance over time is poorly understood. The aim of this study is to explore the association between PA and balance in older adults over time. Methods: Using two waves of data from the TILDA study (n=8,504 participants) a structural equation model was used to identify a composite measure of balance that incorporated measures of Timed Up and Go; handgrip strength; Mini Mental State Exam; vision; hearing; and steadiness. The patterns of change in PA and balance were then compared over time (controlling for covariates). Results: The results showed that one extra metabolic equivalent of task (MET) minute of PA improves balance by 4% over one week (Est=-0.10, SE=0.12), and by 5% cumulatively over two years (Est=-0.13, SE=0.02). Medication, alcohol consumption, sex, age, fear of falling, education, pain, and problems performing activities of daily living (ADL) were risk factors for balance. Conclusion: This study provides a novel and robust model that should guide comprehensive balance assessment. PA promotion should engage older adults in more free-living PA that may be more relevant to them.