By Chris Valuck

What is the Biodex Balance System?

BiodexIf you’ve never seen this type of equipment, it is because The Biodex Balance System™ SD is generally seen in a rehabilitation setting as opposed to a health club or wellness center.  In a senior rehab setting, Biodex might be used for fall risk screening and subsequent treatment; in a sports medicine setting it may be used as a tool to evaluate an athlete’s functional strengths and weaknesses to help develop a training program.

Biodex is suitable within a wellness center environment also, and Plymouth Harbor is fortunate to have this special piece of equipment in our new Wellness Center.  With minimal instruction, a user can independently and at their own pace, perform several different exercises, such as static and dynamic balance activities,  weight shifting, reaction time, and increasing limits of stability.  Exercises can vary in difficulty to accommodate different ability levels of the user, to improve strength, range of motion, gait and balance.  Since gait and balance disorders are high risk factors for falls, balance training is an important component to a regular fitness program at any age. (

One illustration as to the effectiveness of Biodex as a training protocol is a 2012 study conducted by Gusi et al. that incorporated the use of a Biodex in their study involving an older population.  Fear of falling was the primary outcome of the study and dynamic balance & isometric strength was secondary.  After a 12-week program of 30 minutes of balance training per week using the Biodex Balance System, the main findings concluded that the Biodex training protocols reduced the fear of falling and improved dynamic balance and knee strength.  (Gusi et al., 2012)

While not intended to replace physical therapy, Biodex may improve strength, range of motion, gait, and balance among regular users.  If you have not had a demonstration of the Biodex by a member of the Wellness staff, join us for our Equipment Orientation weekly at 11:00 a.m.


Gusi, N., Adsuar, J.C., Corzo, H., Pozo-Cruz, B., Olivares, P., & Parraca, J. (2012). Balance training reduces fear of falling and improves dynamic balance and isometric strength in institutionalized older people: a randomized trial. Journal of Physiotherapy, Vol. 58, 97-104.

Falling is a concern of older adults because the repercussions that follow a fall are often serious.  It is important to prepare yourself and your surroundings to reduce the chance of falling.  Many times a fall happens in an individual’s home due to hazards that can be easily fixed.  Take the following checklist around your home to verify that it is hazard-free.  The checklist asks questions about potential hazards and then gives you solutions to fix them.

When you walk through the rooms in your apartment, do you have to walk around any furniture, rugs, shoes, books, boxes, towels, magazines, etc?  Pick up anything that is lying on the floor.  Ask a friend, family member, or maintenance worker to help you move any furniture that is in your line of walking.

Do you have to walk over any wires or cords?  Tape or coil the cords to the wall or have another outlet added to your wall.

Are the items you use frequently on high shelves?  Move the items that you use the most to a lower, more accessible shelf.

Is your bathtub floor slippery?  Place a non-slip rubber mat or self-stick strips on the floor of the bathtub.

Is the path from your bedroom to your bathroom dark?  Put a lamp next to your bed or use a night light.

Do you use small area rugs in your bathroom or kitchen?  Look for rugs with no-slip coatings underneath to minimize the risk of a slip.

The following questions address potential falling hazards about your own body.  Evaluate yourself.

  • Do you participate in regular exercise?  Regular exercise helps improve muscular strength, balance, and coordination, all of which are factors in decreasing falls.
  • Have you been to the eye doctor recently?  Have your vision checked regularly because poor vision can result in a fall.
  • Do you wear shoes inside your apartment?  Rather than wearing slippers or bare feet, wearing supportive shoes inside and outside of the home is the safest option.
  • Do you get up slowly after sitting or lying?  It is important to take your time when standing up from a sitting or lying position.  Move slowly to give your blood time to re-circulate.
  • Do you use the emergency bracelet/pendant and know how it works?  Wear the emergency bracelet/pendant while in your apartment.  Remember that you must press the button for a couple seconds before it alerts Home Care that there is an emergency.  Also know that if you wear the bracelet outside of the apartment and press the button, Home Care will only be alerted that there is help needed in your apartment.  There are watches in both pool areas, the cardio room and the group fitness room.

References:  Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2005). Check for Safety.  Retrieved September 13, 2013, from pdf.   

Balance is an extremely important part of wellness, especially in the senior population.  Seniors tend to have falls more frequently than the younger population because functions such as their reflexes, reaction time, muscle mass, and vision have changed. An alarming one third of seniors over the age of 65 fall each year and over half of seniors over the age of 80 fall each year2.  These shocking statistics could be lowered by practicing balance through exercise to decrease the chance of a fall.

Tai Chi Helps Reduce Falls in Senior PopulationAt Plymouth Harbor we offer two beneficial balance classes to help improve overall balance and reduce the risk of falling for our residents.  The two classes that we offer are Better Balance, which meets every Monday and Friday from 10:45-11:15 a.m. and Tai Chi, which meets every Thursday from 9:00-9:30 a.m.   Better Balance is a fall prevention class that combines static and dynamic balance exercises to improve coordination, posture, and balance. Tai Chi is a form of exercise that combines slow, controlled, meditative, standing movements that improve posture, coordinated movement, and balance.

A study performed in one senior living community looked at the benefits that Tai Chi had on its residents1.  There were 17 residents that participated in a 60 minute Tai Chi class 3 times a week for 12 weeks1.  All residents were 65 years of age or older, 7 residents used walkers and 10 residents used canes1.  The residents’ balance and strength were assessed one week before starting and one week after finishing the Tai Chi program by using four assessments.1

Results showed that the residents performed significantly better on the post test compared to the pre test, concluding that Tai Chi can increase a person’s balancing capability and decrease their risk of falling1.

Balance is an important skill to practice and it cannot be practiced enough.  All residents are welcome to join us in the group fitness room during Better Balance and Tai Chi to help improve their balance and minimize their risk of falling.

Reference List

1. Hao L, Connors M, Grando V, Liu H, Wedam L, Blake H. Tai Chi intervention for older adults using assistive devices in a senior living community…including commentary by Wedam LM and Blake H. International Journal Of Therapy & Rehabilitation [serial online]. March 2012;19(3):136-143. Available from: CINAHL Plus with Full Text, Ipswich, MA. Accessed June 18, 2013.

2. PR N. Independent Living and Safety For Seniors – Guidebook Offered by American Senior Services, Inc.  PR Newswire US [serial online]. June 14, 2013: Available from: Points of View Reference Center, Ipswich, MA. Accessed June 19, 2013.