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28-09-2010 | General practice | Article

Exercise reduces fractures in elderly


Arch Intern Med 2010; 170: 1548–1556

Elderly women with osteopenia should be encouraged to participate in regular daily activity to reduce their risk of fractures, researchers report.

They found that simple home-based exercises improved balance and gait in women with osteopenia and reduced the risk for fractures by 32%.

"It is a well known fact that although people know exercise is good for health, they do not have enough physical activity," said Raija Korpelainen, from Oulu Deaconess Institute in Finland.

He told GP News: "Written instruction has added weight over verbal, and general practitioners are encouraged to give exercise prescriptions during their appointments to the older patients."

Dr Korpelainen and team carried out extensive research on 160 women, aged 70-73 years, with low bone density. Of these women, 84 attended supervised balance, leg strength and impact training sessions once a week for 6 months, while the remaining 76 did not.

Over an average 7 years of observation, 17 of the women in the exercise programme were treated for fractures, compared with 23 of the other women. The researchers calculated the total incidence rate of fractures to be 0.05 per 1000 women per year for those exercising, compared with 0.08 per 1000 women per year for those who were not.

They also note in the Archives of Internal Medicine that, while five hip fractures occurred in women not exercising, none occurred in those participating in the exercise programme.

The researchers conclude: "Regular daily physical activity should be recommended to elderly women with osteopenia."

GP News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Caroline Price