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PDF Interprets: To Improve Balance, Turn Attention Outward

In a recent study reported in the journal Physical Therapy, when people with Parkinson’s were standing on an unstable surface, they were better able to balance themselves by directing their attention to the surface rather than focusing on their feet.

Previous research has shown that when it comes to learning motor skills to play sports, adopting an external focus helps improve balance and movement.  In other words, keeping your eye on the ball rather than on what your arms are doing to swing the bat improves your chances of a hit.

The new study applies this idea to balance in people with Parkinson’s.  Researchers asked 14 people with Hoehn and Yahr stage II or III PD to stand on an inflated rubber disk 13 inches in diameter.  With a spotter standing by for safety, each study participant tried the task three times, each time receiving different instructions: reduce movement of the feet (internal focus), reduce movement of the disk (external focus), or no special instructions.  When participants focused externally, they tended to sway less.

Researchers suggest that learning to focus externally may be an additional strategy for improving balance, and thus avoiding falls, for people with Parkinson’s who are living with postural instability (problems with balance and coordination).

Source Date: Apr 22 2009