Playing catch could help seniors avoid falls, study suggests

Older adults can reduce their risk of falling by playing catch with a weighted medicine ball, according to recently published findings.

Playing catch improves a person's anticipatory postural control, which people lose as they age, stated principal investigator Alexander Aruin, Ph.D., of the University of Illinois at Chicago. Anticipatory control, Aruin explained, is what happens “when ... you see someone about to bump into you, you brace yourself.” It works in conjunction with corrective control — what the body does after the bump occurs — to keep people from falling.

Aruin and his colleagues measured the activity of leg and trunk muscles in a group of seniors who played catch, and saw improvements. The seniors also showed that the improvements in anticipatory control would hold even for activities outside of playing catch. More long-term studies are planned.

Another benefit of playing catch is that nearly all the study participants enjoyed it, Aruin noted in a press release issued Friday.

Complete findings are available online and are forthcoming in the journals Electromyography and Kinesiology and Experimental Brain Research.