Perturbation-based gait training to improve daily life gait stability in older adults at risk of falling: Protocol for the REACT randomized controlled trial

Markus M. Rieger, Selma Papegaaij, Frans Steenbrink, Jaap H. Van Dieën, Mirjam Pijnappels*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: The European population is rapidly ageing. There is an urgent need for innovative solutions to reduce fall risk in older adults. Perturbation-based gait training is a promising new method to improve reactive balance responses. Whereas positive effects on task-specific dynamic balance recovery during gait have been shown in clinical or laboratory settings, translation of these effects to daily life gait function and fall risk is limited. We aim to evaluate the effect of a 4-week perturbation-based treadmill training on daily-life dynamic gait stability, assessed with inertial sensor data. Secondary outcomes are balance recovery performance, clinical balance and gait assessment scores, the amount of physical activity in daily life and falls incidence during 6 months follow-up. Methods: The study is a monocenter assessor-blinded randomized controlled trial. The target study sample consists of 70 older adults of 65 years and older, living in the community and with an elevated risk of falling. A block-randomization to avoid seasonal effects will be used to allocate the participants into two groups. The experimental group receives a 4-week, two times per week perturbation-based gait training programme on a treadmill, with simulated slips and trips, in combination with cognitive dual tasks. The control group receives a 4-week, two times per week treadmill training programme under cognitive dual-task conditions without perturbations. Participants will be assessed at baseline and after the 4-weeks intervention period on their daily-life gait stability by wearing an inertial sensor on the lower back for seven consecutive days. In addition, clinical balance and gait assessments as well as questionnaires on falls- and gait-efficacy will be taken. Daily life falls will be followed up over 6 months by a fall calendar. Discussion: Whereas perturbation-based training has shown positive effects in improving balance recovery strategies and in reducing laboratory falls, this study will contribute to investigate the translation of perturbation-based treadmill training effects in a clinical setting towards improving daily life gait stability and reducing fall risk and falls. Trial registration: NTR7703 / NL66322.028.18, Registered: January 8, 2019; Enrolment of the first participant April 8, 2019.

Original languageEnglish
Article number167
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2020


  • Accidental falls
  • Activities of daily living
  • Aging
  • Cognitive aging
  • Exercise test
  • Motor skills
  • Perturbation training
  • Postural balance
  • Treadmill
  • Walking


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