Physical rehabilitation that builds explosive muscle strength may help prevent falls in seniors who experience prolonged inactivity, according to a new study from the University of Roehampton, London, UK.

To assess the effects of long‐term muscle disuse, the researchers studied below-the-knee amputees who don’t use the quadriceps muscles of their amputated limb. They found that years of inactivity causes a disproportionate decline in the muscles’ ability to quickly produce force – or explosive strength.

Low explosive strength can hinder balance and increase the risk of falls and joint injuries, reported first author Amy Sibley and colleagues. Resistance exercise is the key to maintaining and regaining this type of muscle strength, they wrote.

“To achieve this aim, clinicians need to be specific about the type of strength training they use,” Sibley explained. “[T]ypical resistance exercises should be performed with the intention of lifting the resistance as rapidly as possible.”

The study is applicable to a wide range of people who have been inactive long-term, such as those who have been hospitalized for illness or injury, said Sibley, a lecturer in sports rehabilitation. “This research has exciting potential to help people … regain the strength they need for daily activities such as avoiding falls,” she concluded. 

Full findings were published in the journal Experimental Psychology.