Exercise regimens designed to prevent falls in older adults also appear to prevent injuries when falls occur, according to a study published online by the British Medical Journal. Balance training seems to be particularly worthwhile, according to senior researcher Patricia Dargent-Molina, PhD, and colleagues.
The investigators, from France, reviewed 17 studies with a total of 2,195 participants who exercised and 2,110 who were part of control groups. The mean age of participants was 76 years, and 77 percent of them were women. Two of the 17 trials involved Tai Chi, but the others involved gait, balance and functional training (exercise that involves training for activities of daily living). Most of the trials also included strength/resistance training exercises.
The researchers found that most of the exercise interventions they studied tended to reduce all types of injurious falls. Exercise seemed to significantly decrease the rate of falls resulting in medical care, serious injuries and fractures, and the effect appeared most pronounced for the most severe fall-related injuries.
All the exercises that proved to be effective for fall prevention emphasized balance training, which the researchers say is “ample evidence that this type of program improves balance ability.”
“Reducing the risk of falling and improving protective responses during a fall may be an important and feasible means of preventing fractures and other serious injuries in the elderly,” they say. Based on their results, healthcare professionals should encourage older adults to participate in fall-preventing exercise programs, the investigator add.
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