The effects of lingual exercise on swallowing in older adults


OBJECTIVES: To determine the effects of an 8-week progressive lingual resistance exercise program on swallowing in older individuals, the most ‘at risk’ group for dysphagia. DESIGN: Prospective cohort intervention study. SETTING: Subjects were recruited from the community at large. PARTICIPANTS: Ten healthy men and women aged 70 to 89. INTERVENTION: Each subject performed an 8-week lingual resistance exercise program consisting of compressing an air-filled bulb between the tongue and hard palate. MEASUREMENTS: At baseline and Week 8, each subject completed a videofluoroscopic swallowing evaluation for kinematic and bolus flow assessment of swallowing. Swallowing pressures and isometric pressures were collected at baseline and Weeks 2, 4, and 6. Four of the subjects also underwent oral magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure lingual volume. RESULTS: All subjects significantly increased their isometric and swallowing pressures. All subjects who had the MRI demonstrated increased lingual volume of an average of 5.1%. CONCLUSION: The findings indicate that lingual resistance exercise is promising not only for preventing dysphagia due to sarcopenia, but also as a treatment strategy for patients with lingual weakness and swallowing disability due to frailty or other age-related conditions. The potential effect of lingual exercise on reducing dysphagia-related comorbidities (pneumonia, malnutrition, and dehydration) and healthcare costs while improving quality of life is encouraging.

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society