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Exercise can prevent falls in older people

17 July 2009 2 Comments

Falling is a very common cause of severe injury and even death in older people. A 2010 study estimated that 30% of adults older than 65 will experience a fall each year and even minor falls can have serious consequences; “elderly patients are 3 times as likely to die following a ground-level fall”. This can be something as simple as slipping on a wet tile floor. From 1993-2005 the rate of fatal falls increased by 55% so the risk of falling is certainly something that should be addressed.

A 2008 study reviewed the results of 44 previous trials which tested the effects of exercise on the risk of falling in nearly 10,000 people. They looked at:
1. whether exercise programs were able to prevent falls in older people; and
2. what sort of exercise is best for helping prevent falls.

The overwhelming result from these studies was that exercise can help prevent falls.

Some studies found better results than others, and the best effects were found in programs that employed “challenging balance exercises”. Here are some examples of this:

  • Stand on both feet with your feet together
  • Stand on just one foot
  • Try to “tightrope” walk along a line on the floor

Those studies where people did more exercise did better, so try to gradually increase the amount you do.

Surprisingly the studies where they did NOT include a walking program did better. I would have thought that practising walking would help you get better at walking, but it didn’t seem to translate to a reduced risk of falling. The best thing to do is improve your balance.