Balance and strength training can prevent falls in older people

August 7, 2012

Balance and strength training is known to reduce falls in older adults. However, less than 10% of older people routinely engage in strength training and it is likely that this is much lower for activities that challenge balance.

It has been suggested that integrating exercise into may help people stick to it, but this approach has never been investigated in frail older people at risk of falls.

So a team of researchers at the University of Sydney designed and tested the Lifestyle integrated Functional Exercise (LiFE) programme, which involves embedding balance and into daily routines, such as walking, stepping over objects and moving from sitting to standing.

They then compared this approach with a structured exercise programme (performed three times a week using ankle cuff weights) and gentle 'sham' exercises that acted as the study control.

They recruited 317 men and women aged 70 or older, living in the community and having two or more falls, or one injurious fall, in the past year.

Participants were split into the three treatment arms and recorded any falls over 12 months using daily calendars. Other measures like static and , ankle, knee and hip strength, daily living activities, and were also measured recognised scales.

They found a significant (31%) reduction in the rate of falls for participants in the LiFE programme compared with the control group. The overall incidence of falls in the LiFE programme was 1.66 per person years, compared with 1.90 in the structured programme and 2.28 in the control group.

There was a non-significant reduction in the rate of falls for participants in the structured programme compared to the control group.

Compared with control patients, LiFE participants showed improvements in both static and dynamic balance, ankle strength, and in function and participation in daily life, suggesting that this programme improves both fall risk and frailty.

was significantly better in the LiFE programme and compared with the structured exercise programme.

The authors conclude that the LiFE programme "provides an alternative to traditional exercise for older people to reduce falls, to improve function in doing activities and to enhance participation in daily life."

In an accompanying editorial, Professor Meg Morris from the University of Melbourne says that for fall prevention programmes in older people to be effective, "therapeutic exercises, education, and physical activities need to be sustainable, enjoyable, and effective over the long term."

She adds: "The belief that falls should be accepted and tolerated as part of the ageing process is a myth that needs dispelling. Many falls can and should be prevented."

Explore further: Falls prevention in Parkinson's disease

More information:
www.bmj.com/cgi/doi/10.1136/bmj.e4547
www.bmj.com/cgi/doi/10.1136/bmj.e4919

Related Stories

Falls prevention in Parkinson's disease

October 12, 2011
A study carried out by the Primary Care Research Group at the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and NIHR PenCLAHRC, has analysed the results of an ...

Recommended for you

To reduce postoperative pain, consider sleep—and caffeine

August 18, 2017
Sleep is essential for good mental and physical health, and chronic insufficient sleep increases the risk for several chronic health problems.

Despite benefits, half of parents against later school start times

August 18, 2017
Leading pediatrics and sleep associations agree: Teens shouldn't start school so early.

Doctors exploring how to prescribe income security

August 18, 2017
Physicians at St. Michael's Hospital are studying how full-time income support workers hired by health-care clinics can help vulnerable patients or those living in poverty improve their finances and their health.

Schoolchildren who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try tobacco

August 17, 2017
Vaping - or the use of e-cigarettes - is widely accepted as a safer option for people who are already smoking.

Federal snack program does not yield expected impacts, researchers find

August 17, 2017
A well-intentioned government regulation designed to offer healthier options in school vending machines has failed to instill better snacking habits in a sample of schools in Appalachian Virginia, according to a study by ...

In a nutshell: Walnuts activate brain region involved in appetite control

August 17, 2017
Packed with nutrients linked to better health, walnuts are also thought to discourage overeating by promoting feelings of fullness. Now, in a new brain imaging study, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.