Here we offer our powerpoint presentation. If you enjoy video, watch. If you would rather read, scroll down a bit and I have also outlined the research in writing with a link to the abstract.
Our mission at Integrative Learning Center is to nurture the health and development of individuals enabling them to serve as active partners within their community. One of the core values that guide us as we fulfill our mission is research. We participate in research and seek to make valid and reliable contributions to the body of literature and on July 9, 2017, in Oxford, England, we did just that!
The pilot study, Alternative Movement Program in Geriatric Rehabilitation: Bones for Life® was accepted for oral presentation at the 2017 International Conference on Movement held at Oxford University. Carol Montgomery delivered the summary of the paper and Cynthia Allen lead the audience in a Bones for Life movement process. At the end of the conference, we learned that the full paper was accepted for publication and will appear in the journal of Functional Neurology, Rehabilitation and Ergonomics, Volume 7.
Bones for Life®, a relatively new somatic-based educational program was the intervention used to assess the physical and psychological benefits, if any, that this program could offer to the Geriatric population. Partnering with Dunham Recreation Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, community-dwelling seniors with a mean age of 73 participated in a 90-minute Bones for Life class, once a week for six weeks.
Four key findings emerged from the pilot study. There were two Physical Measures that demonstrated the most sensitivity to change, the 360* Turn Test and the 20-Second Step Test. Both tests were timed for speed. The 360* Turn Test involves turning around in a full circle, pausing, and then turning a full circle in the other direction. The 20-Second Step test involves standing on one leg while placing the entire foot of the opposite leg on a step as many times as possible in 20 seconds.
We were surprised by the statistically significant improvement observed in these test results because BOTH participants with the lowest level AND highest level of function demonstrated improvement. We asked ourselves why?
By its nature or design, BFL challenges long standing, inefficient and poor movement patterns. Could learning and practicing elements involved in transitional movements be the key difference that significantly impacted our subjects?
Some Examples of these transitional movements were: moving down and up from floor, going from sit to stand using a spiraling motion, turning, lateral exploration of weight-shifting and weight bear-bearing through different aspects of the feet.
Also, a common element in both tests, was the ability to stand on one leg. Bones for Life does not target specific Balance exercises. It uses NOVEL movement activities. We think is was these movement activities that allowed the subjects to sustain a smaller base of support without an increase in postural sway or musculoskeletal demand. Another contributing factor, was improvement in lower extremity alignment patterns. We postulate that alignment patterns changed because of the guided NOVEL movement activities such as, spiraling movements with hand-eye coordination, pressing foot on the wall, facilitating patterns that involve trunk side bending and rotation.
The third key finding of the study was revealed during the Analysis of the SF-36 Health Survey, a questionnaire that profiles one’s functional health and well-being. In this pilot study, statistically significant improvement was seen in several areas: Vitality, Mental Health and General Health. Subjects reported that the Bones for Life intervention had a positive influence on quality of life indicators like peace, happiness, calmness, and increased energy. The SF-36 Health Survey began to validate and quantify a commonly-reported response that participants in a Bones for Life class describe: a confident sense of well-being and a feeling of vitality and happiness. Ruthy Alon, originator of Bones for Life, refers to this phenomenon as “Biological Optimism”.
Improvement in the subject’s General Health was even more interesting. Participants in this study perceived that their general health got better. Improvement in this domain was thought-provoking because subjects self-reported a wide range in their general health including, past medical histories, reported activity levels and diagnoses. Regardless of this diversity, positive effects were seen among participants in a very short time. SO, we asked ourselves, how in 6 weeks could General Health perception improve when medical history, diagnoses and activity levels remained the same?
A precept of somatic movement education includes strategies to cultivate awareness – generating a state of mindfulness. The Bone for Life intervention revealed long-standing habitual and inefficient movement patterns. When subjects in the pilot improved their movement patterns, it increased their level of function. As function improved, they felt healthier!
The final key finding of this study was observed in the Post Intervention Interview. After receiving the Bones for Life intervention, 90% of the subjects reported improvement in their balance. However, improved balance was NOT the primary benefit of the class.
Functional gains and carryover into daily activities was the number one benefit. Subjects stated it was easier to get out of a chair; reach into cabinets, climb stools, change light bulbs, hang clothes and easier to get down and up from the floor. Also, there was unpredicted carryover effect as subjects reported improvements in recreational activities, such as, playing golf (improved stance, swing and better ability to concentrate during play) and walking programs (increased speed, confidence, improved postural alignment).
Why a somatic approach to exercise matters? In this pilot study we discovered, maybe, the only difference between quality function and dysfunction is that:
Quality function is primarily informed by organized movement patterns that explore qualities such as, sequence, timing, weight distribution, novelty and variability of movement.
Somatic based programs challenge students. They ask them to be full participants in learning movements that confront their quality AND their ability to be aware, to think and use problem-solving skills to improve balance and self-care.
Somatic movement education programs are where function improves through the improvement of body awareness. Thus, movement coordination and the collaborative functions of the skeletal, muscular and nervous systems are changed. Even when people have an organic problem or disease, it just may be possible that the field of Somatics can help them deal with how they respond to their problem and therefore, impact their quality of life.
At Integrative Learning Center, we seek to offer programs that bring together the best of traditional and somatic education learning platforms providing an experiential understanding that leads to a higher level of function and improved quality of life. Consider joining us by making a donation of enrolling in a somatic education class for the ultimate purpose of connection, learning, empowerment and partnership. Read research.