Exercise can prevent falls in older people

July 18, 2002

A weekly exercise programme focusing on balance can prevent falls among older people living at home, finds a study in this week's BMJ.

Researchers identified 1,090 Australian born adults aged 70-84 years, living at home and in good health. Participants were assigned to interventions involving group based exercise, home hazard management, and vision improvement, and were asked to report falls using a monthly postcard calendar system.

Exercise was the most effective single intervention tested, and the reduction in falls among this group seems to have been associated with improved balance, say the authors. Neither home hazard management nor treatment of poor vision showed a significant effect when used alone, but added value when combined with the exercise programme.

All three interventions combined showed the strongest effect, producing an estimated 14% reduction in the annual fall rate, they add.

Although cost effectiveness is yet to be examined, these results show that a supervised exercise programme for this group for one hour a week for 15 weeks, supplemented with home exercise for up to 12 months, can reduce falls, say the authors. However, further trials may be needed to examine the effectiveness of interventions among people who are aged over 85 or in poorer health, they conclude.


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