Bend Don’t Break: Stretching improves scores on a battery of fall assessment tools in older adults

Nathan F. Johnson, Chloe Hutchinson, Kaitlyn Hargett, Kyle Kosik, Phillip Gribble

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Context: Falls and loss of autonomy are often attributed in large part to musculoskeletal impairments in later adulthood. Age-related declines in flexibility contribute to late adulthood musculoskeletal impairment. The novel sitting-rising test has been proposed to be a quick, effective screening of musculoskeletal fitness, fall risk, and all-cause mortality in older adults. The timed up and go and 5 times sit-to-stand tests are two of the 3 most evidence-supported performance measures to assess fall risk. Objective: This study aimed to determine if 5 weeks of flexibility training could increase sitting-rising test, timed up and go, and 5 times sit-to-stand scores in community-dwelling older adults. Participants: Forty-seven adults aged 60 years and older (mean age = 66.7 y, SD = 4.1) participated in this study. Participants completed a static stretching protocol consisting of 3 weekly 1-hour stretching sessions. Results: The protocol improved flexibility as seen in sit-and-reach scores and improved scores on all outcome variables. Specifically, there was a significant increase in sitting-rising test scores from preintervention (M = 7.45, SD = 1.45) to postintervention (M = 8.04, SD = 1.36), t(42) = −5.21, P < .001. Timed up and go scores demonstrated a significant decrease from preintervention (M = 8.85, SD = 1.32) to postintervention (M = 8.20, SD = 1.35), t(46) = 5.10, P < .001. Five times sit-to-stand scores demonstrated a significant decrease from preintervention (M = 12.57, SD = 2.68) to postintervention (M = 10.46, SD = 2.06), t(46) = 6.62, P < .001. Finally, significant increases in sit-and-reach scores were associated with improved functional performance (r = −.308, P = .03). Conclusion: Findings suggest that flexibility training can be an effective mode of low-level exercise to improve functional outcomes. Static stretching may help to improve musculoskeletal health, promote autonomy, and decrease mortality in community-dwelling older adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-84
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Sport Rehabilitation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the National Institutes of Health CTSA UL1TR000117, the University of Kentucky’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, and the University of Kentucky’s Clinical Services Core (CSC). The received funding did not lead to any conflict of interest regarding the publication of this article. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of these granting agencies. Furthermore, the authors have no additional conflicts of interest to report. The authors thank Kenneth Lockard and Zachary Johnson for helping to supervise participants.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Human Kinetics, Inc.


  • Aging
  • Flexibility
  • Geriatric
  • Mobility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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