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Balance retraining exercise programmes help to reduce falls in at-risk older women

A community-based balance retraining programme for older women could help reduce the incidence of injurious falls, a new study suggests.

French researchers studied 706 women aged 75-85, all of whom lived in their own home and had diminished balance and gait capacities. Over a two-year period, 352 women undertook an exercise programme involving weekly supervised group sessions of progressive balance training and individually prescribed home exercises, and 354 were assigned to a control group.

The researchers classified falls that occurred in either group as ‘no consequence’, ‘moderate’ or ‘severe’, based on physical damage and medical care required. In the intervention group, 305 injurious falls were recorded, with 68 resulting in severe injury. In the control group, 87 of the 397 injurious falls recorded resulted in severe injury.

After two years, women in the intervention group performed significantly better than those in the control group in all balance and gait performance tests, and had better perception of their overall physical function.

The authors said the study results showed that large-scale, long-term fall prevention exercise programmes can be effective in reducing injurious falls among older at-risk women, and future studies should look at improving participation.

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