The Role of Exercise in Preventing Falls Among Older Adults

For the elderly, falls are troublesome and dangerous. Not only do they risk a decrease a person’s confidence in their own mobility, they risk physical injury. At yearly medical costs of $19 billion per year in the U.S., they impact society as a whole, as well. But there is good news. Up to 42% if falls can be eliminated by a customized exercise program. Researchers have found that group-based programs involving two or more components, community Tai Chi programs, and customized programs at home are the most effective at reducing fall risk. On the other hand, resistance training and general physical activity, such as walking, were not found to be effective. How much exercise do you need? According to researchers, it took 50 hours to see significant risk reduction. This could, for example, be two hours a week spread out over six months.

Key Points:

  • 1Exercise reduces the risk of falling and/or the rate of falling in older adults who are living independently in the community or within retirement communities
  • 2The most effective exercise interventions identified were group-based programs that included two or more exercise components, individually tailored programs delivered in the home, and community-based Tai Chi programs
  • 3An Eastern form of exercise known as Tai Chi is effective in reducing falls among relatively healthy but sedentary older adults

According to Sherrington, a minimum of 50 hours of exercise (i.e., a twice weekly, one-hour program, distributed across a 6-month period) is needed before fall incidence rates are lowered significantly.

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