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12-08-2012 | General practice | Article

Simple daily exercises cut elderly falls

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MedWire News: Elderly people can significantly reduce their risk of falls by building simple balance and strength training exercises into their routine daily activities, an Australian study shows.

The research showed that people aged 70 or older who followed an integrated exercise programme had 31% fewer falls over a year than those who followed a sham-exercise programme (172 vs 224 falls per year).

The integrated programme is designed to enhance adherence to balance-enhancing exercises by prescribing movements to be performed throughout the day. For example, squatting rather than bending to reach something or heel standing while on the phone. Importantly, after 1 year, nearly two-thirds of patients were still following the programme.

NICE guidance states that all older people in contact with healthcare professionals should be routinely asked about falls. They also say that those at risk should be encouraged to take part in fall prevention programmes.

However, currently, engagement with strength and balance programmes is low. Writing in the BMJ, Professor Lindy Clemson (University of Sydney, Australia) and colleagues say: "There is an imperative to develop effective strategies for fall prevention that are acceptable and sustainable over the long term for older people."

In an accompanying editorial, Professor Meg Morris (University of Melbourne, Australia) says: "The belief that falls should be accepted and tolerated as part of the ageing process is a myth that needs dispelling. Many falls can and should be prevented."

MedWire (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Kirsty Oswald