How going out on a limb can cut falls: Simple exercises by the elderly can reduce chance of accident by a third
01:01 GMT, 8 August 2012
Simple home exercises, including standing on one leg, reduces falls among the elderly by almost a third, according to new research.
Falls among OAPs are estimated to cost the NHS in England up to 4.6million a day, with up to one in three over 65s suffering at least one each year.
They are a major cause of injury and death among the over 70s and account for more than half of hospital admissions for accidental injury.
Trips and falls are a major cause of injury and death among elderly people
A study of more than three hundred over 70s found those who took part in a course that improved balance and strength suffered 31 per cent fewer accidents.
The LiFE (Lifestyle integrated Functional Exercise) programme was developed by a team of researchers at the University of Sydney and involves daily training routines such as walking, stepping over objects and moving from sitting to standing.
Ageing specialist Professor Lindy Clemson said: 'LiFE is a tailored programme of embedded balance and strength activities, taught over five home visits with two booster visits.
'It provides an alternative to traditional exercise to consider for fall prevention.
'Functional based exercise should be a focus for interventions to protect older, high risk people from falling and to improve and maintain functional capacity.'
The researchers whose findings are published online in the British Medical Journal said balance and strength training is known to reduce falls in older adults.
But less than ten percent of older people routinely engage in strength training and it is likely this is much lower for activities that challenge balance.
Simple home exercises could reduce the chance of an accident by a third
It has been suggested integrating exercise into everyday activities may help people stick to it, but this approach has never been investigated in frail older people at risk of falls.
So the researchers compared their own lifestyle intervention with a structured exercise programme performed three times a week using ankle cuff weights and gentle ‘sham’ exercises that acted as the study control.
The participants who had all suffered at least two minor falls or one that caused injury in the past year and were split into the three treatment groups with any falls over a year recorded using daily calendars.
Other measures like static and dynamic balance, ankle, knee and hip strength, daily living activities and quality of life were also measured recognised scales.
The overall incidence of falls in the LiFE programme was 1.66 per person years, compared with 1.90 in the structured programme and 2.28 in the control group.
There was a non-significant reduction in the rate of falls for those in the structured programme compared to the control group.
Integrating exercise into everyday activities could be the best way to ensure elderly people stick to an exercise regime
Compared with control patients LiFE participants showed improvements in both static and dynamic balance, ankle strength and in function and participation in daily life, suggesting the programme improves both fall risk and frailty.
Adherence was significantly better in the LiFE programme and control group compared with the structured exercise programme.
Prof Clemson said: 'Falling in older age has debilitating and isolating social consequences, along with high and escalating economic costs.
'Falls can start a downward spiral of immobility, reduced confidence, and incapacity leading to institutionalisation.
'Fall related admissions have not declined over the past ten years, and there is an imperative to develop effective strategies for fall prevention that are acceptable and sustainable over the long term for older people.'
The commonest injury amongst elderly people in England who fall is a hip fracture, with 60,000 elderly people experiencing the injury each year.
The high cost comes from factors including the cost of a hip replacement operation, paying for patients to stay in hospital and their rehabilitation.
Around 14,000 die annually after a fall.
Professor Meg Morris, of the University of Melbourne, who reviewed the research for the journal, said for fall prevention programmes in older people to be effective 'therapeutic exercises, education and physical activities need to be sustainable, enjoyable and effective over the long term.'
She added: 'The belief 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.'