RQES Table of Contents
Effects of Balance Training on Balance Performance in Youth: Are There Age Differences?
Good postural control is fundamental for children and adolescents to cope with activities of
daily living (e.g., climbing stairs, standing in a moving bus) and to successfully engage in physical
activities (e.g., running, hopping, cycling). However, several studies have shown differences in balance
performance in youth, with adolescents typically outperforming children. For example, Riach and
Hayes (1987) found postural sway during static bipedal stance to decrease with increasing age in children
aged two to fourteen years. Similar results were obtained during a dynamic balancing task (Walchli, Ruffieux,
Mouthon, Keller, & Taube, 2018), showing that six-year-olds sway significantly more on a swinging
platform than eleven- and fifteen-yearolds. Moreover, postural responses after anticipated (Haas, Diener,
Bacher, & Dichgans, 1986) as well as nonanticipated perturbations (Shumway-Cook & Woollacott,
1985) reportedly mature with age in youth. Finally, a recent systematic review and meta-analysis (Schedler,
Kiss, & Muehlbauer, 2019) investigating differences in balance performance between children and
adolescents revealed small (dynamic steady-state/proactive balance) to large (static steady-state balance)
effects in favor of adolescents.
Age-related differences in balance performance in youth have been attributed to advanced
maturation of the postural control system (Woollacott & Shumway-Cook, 1990), neural (Haas et al., 1986) and
physical (Riach & Starkes, 1993) developments, and increased motor experiences (Gouleme, Ezane,
Wiener-Vacher, & Bucci, 2014) in adolescents compared to children. These factors may also lead to
differences in the trainability of balance between children and adolescents. On the one hand, trainability
of balance might be higher in adolescents compared to children due to their almost mature postural control
system, which might be a prerequisite for pronounced training adaptations. On the other hand, children
might be better trainable due to their lower level of performance leaving them with higher adaptive
resources compared to adolescents.
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