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Eyeball exercise can improve balance ability in older people

This study suggests that eyeball exercise programmes affect vestibular function by the activation of the vestibular ocular reflex.

Having a fall can lead to loss of self-confidence, increased dependence on others and decreased quality of life. Older people have a higher risk of falls because of decreased flexibility, weakness of lower leg muscles, failing eyesight and poor balance.


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Balance involves the somatic sensory system, visual systems and vestibular organs, which all interact depending on the relationship of the head and surrounding objects. Older people have decreased interaction ability between the visual and vestibular systems.

In this single-blind study 61 older people who had experienced a fall were randomly assigned to either eyeball or functional exercises. The eyeball exercises involved first holding two cards 30cm in front of participants and asking them to stare at the right and left card alternately. Participants were then asked to fix their gaze on the card while it was moved and to move their head from side to side while the card was held still. The final stage involved participants moving their head from left to right while the card was moved from right to left. This movement was then reversed.

All participants received 30 sessions over a 10-week period and then the researchers used measures of balance, including the centre of pressure measurement equipment and Timed Up and Go Test. The eyeball exercise group and the control group who completed functional exercises showed improvements in balance, but the changes were greater for the eyeball group.

This study suggests that eyeball exercise programmes affect vestibular function by the activation of the vestibular ocular reflex.


Park J (2017) The effects of eyeball exercise on balance ability and falls efficacy of the elderly who have experienced a fall: a single-blind, randomized controlled trial. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics. 68, 181-185. doi:10.1016/j.archger.2016.10.006.

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