According to research, older women looking to improve gait and avoid hip fractures may need only 20 minutes of daily home exercise. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (September 27, 2010; 170 [17], 1548–56) followed 160 women with osteopenia for 7 years.

At the beginning of the study, the women were aged 70–73. One group exercised daily for 20 minutes at home and participated in 6 months of supervised weekly training each year for 5 years. No information was available about the type of exercise performed. Compared with the nonexercise group, the exercise group walked more quickly and showed greater signs of strength and stability. They also showed a 32% drop in fracture risk. At the end of 7 years, 100 women (55 exercisers, 45 nonexercisers) were available for follow-up testing. Among all the women in the study, those who had engaged in moderate physical activity throughout their lives were 78% less likely to have experienced a fracture. And yet both exercise and nonexercise groups showed similar decreases in bone mineral density over time.

“Mainly home-based exercises followed by voluntary home training seem to have a long-term effect on balance and gait and may even protect high-risk elderly women from hip fractures,” stated the study authors.

For more information on helping older adults improve balance, read “Balance for Baby Boomers and Seniors,” by Evan Osar, DC, in the October 2009 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal.