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Training for Balance and Function Reduces Falls Among Older Adults

A variety of options lessens risk of falling.

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Balance and functional training

Falls are a serious risk for older adults, with consequences such as fractures and head injuries that can lead to death. As many as one-third of adults over 65 years who live independently fall annually. Researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia conducted a systematic review of 108 studies to determine the effectiveness of exercise interventions.

Data analysis showed that exercise training can reduce falls by 23%. Programs combining balance exercises and functional training reduced falls among participants when compared with nonexercisers. Programs that blend balance with functional and resistance training are likely to reduce falls, and consistent tai chi practice may also lower risks.

“This review provides high-certainty evidence that well-designed exercise programmes reduce the rate of falls among older people living in the community,” study authors noted. “Greater provision and implementation of these programmes is an urgent challenge for the global sport and exercise medicine community . . .”

The study is in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (2020; 54 [15]).

December Question of the Month

Question of the Month

Are you, or is your facility, providing programs for people with chronic medical conditions or specific medical concerns for which a supervised exercise program is beneficial? For example, fall prevention programs for older adults or programs designed for prenatal or postpartum women? If yes, what populations are you serving, and are you associated with medical professionals in a healthcare facility or elsewhere? How are you promoting this program? Please share your success stories.

We want to hear from you! Email executive editor Joy Keller, [email protected].

See also: Pillars of Functional Training for Active Aging


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Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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