Preventing falls is a top priority to keep older people healthy and mobile. Over one-third of all community-dwelling people over the age of 65 fall every year, and that rate increases with age.
At that age, falling isn’t just a matter of getting up again and going about your day. The older you are, the higher the risk of an injury that could lead to immobility, a lower quality of life, and even an early death. In addition, even if you don’t physically hurt yourself, the fear of falling again can prevent you from moving about as much as you should. This too can cause health problems and reduced physical function through muscle disuse by fear.
Exercise is an important way to prevent falling by strengthening muscles and improving balance. This is demonstrated in a new and extensive Cochrane review, assessing the effects of exercise interventions for preventing falls in the elderly.
Preventing Falls by Exercising
The researchers reviewed close to 60 randomized controlled trials with a total number of almost 13,000 participants. The results showed that participating in regular exercise reduced the number of falls by almost one quarter. Twenty-three percent, to be precise. This means that if there are 850 falls in 1,000 elderly during a year, exercise can prevent 195 of these.
In addition, the researchers looked at the effects of specific types of exercise. Balance and control exercises reduced the risk of falling by 24%.
These numbers are backed by high-certainty evidence from a large number of quality studies.
Including multiple different types of exercise in the training program, like balance training plus strength training, probably reduced the risk by a whopping 34%. Probably, because the evidence here is of moderate certainty. Still, it was based on 11 studies with more than 1,300 participants.
This review provides high-certainty evidence that regular exercise can greatly reduce the number of falls in the elderly. Having strong muscles become more and more important the older you get. In fact, it can be the difference between healthy aging and disability.