Exercise may reduce fractures in elderly women
MedWire News: Home-based exercises that focus on balance and leg strength reduce important risk factors for falls and fractures among elderly women with osteopenia, Finnish researchers report.
Raija Korpelainen (Oulu Deaconess Institute) and colleagues found that women aged 70-73 years who took part in a 30-month exercise program (n=84) preserved their walking speed, postural control, and functional ability, and had fewer fractures compared with women in a control group (n=76) who continued with their normal daily activities without additional exercise.
Women in the exercise group attended supervised balance, leg strength, and impact training sessions once a week for a 6-month period from October to March each year from 1998 to 2001 (30 months in total). From April to September each year, the women performed the exercises at home.
The researchers then conducted an extended follow-up of the women from 2001 until 2005, during which time they assessed important risk factors for falls such as balance, muscle strength, walking speed, and functional ability, on a yearly basis.
During an average follow-up time of 7.1 years, 17 fractures occurred in the exercise group, compared with 23 fractures in the control group. The total incidence rate of fractures during follow-up was 0.05 per 1000 person-years in the exercise group compared with 0.08 per 1000 person-years in the control group.
In addition, there were no hip fractures in the exercise group, whereas five hip fractures occurred in the control group.
The researchers found that postural sway increased in both groups throughout the study, but was more pronounced in the control group. In addition, the exercisers maintained their walking speed at the baseline level, whereas the women in the control group had a decrease in walking speed during the follow-up period.
Of note, bone mineral density was not affected by exercise and decreased similarly across time in both groups.
According to Korpelainen and co-authors, "30 months of supervised, mainly home-based exercises followed by voluntary home training had a positive long-term effect on balance and gait in high-risk elderly women."
Writing in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the researchers conclude: "Regular daily physical activity should be recommended to elderly women with osteopenia."
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By Laura Dean