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Exercise lowers falls risk and improves life for older people

Injuries related to falls are common in older adults and contribute to functional decline and premature admission to care homes. This randomised controlled trial studied the effectiveness of a two-year exercise programme of balance retraining in reducing falls. Women aged 75-85 living locally were eligible to participate if they were able to walk but took seven seconds or more to walk six metres.

Older people can improve their physical function and quality of life by taking part in regular group exercise routines

Picture credit: Science Photo Library

Exercises were given in group sessions once a week for two years and included routines to improve postural stability (assessed by body sway), muscle extensibility and joint flexibility, balance, reaction time, co-ordination, muscle strength for posture and balance, and internal spatial awareness (sense of position and movement of limbs and trunk).

Results showed an average reduction of 19% in falls leading to injury. Women in the exercise group felt better about their overall physical function and their fear of falling increased less with age than it did for the control group.

The authors recommend large-scale, long-term fall prevention exercise programmes for at-risk women, which can improve physical function and quality of life.

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