The Best Exercises to Prevent Falls
A large review of studies confirms that exercise can be a good way to help reduce the frequency of falls in the elderly.
The analysis, in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, included 108 randomized controlled trials with more than 23,000 participants. Their average age was 76, and 77 percent were women.
As controls, the trials used either educational information about fall prevention, or no intervention at all.
The researchers found high-quality evidence that exercise reduces the rate of falls by 23 percent, and the number of people who fall by 15 percent. Five studies suggested that exercise reduced the number of falls involving serious injury, though there were not enough cases to draw statistically significant conclusions.
Exercises that required standing up rather than sitting were the most effective. Tai chi, for example, reduced the rate of falls by 19 percent. But there was little proof that resistance training, dancing or walking programs had any effect, and there were no trials involving aerobic or flexibility exercises.
Adverse events were reported in 27 of the trials, but they were generally mild, usually involving joint or muscle pain.
“The more we learn about physical functioning in older age, the more we see the importance of the role of exercise,” said the lead author, Catherine Sherrington, a researcher at the University of Sydney School of Medicine. “We’re very sure that starting an exercise program will reduce the risk for falls.”
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