Balance Training Seems to Prevent Falls by Elderly

TUESDAY, Oct. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Exercise programs meant to prevent falls in seniors may also help prevent injuries caused by falls, according to a new review.

Fall-related injuries are common among seniors and a major cause of long-term pain and disability. They also increase the risk of having to go to a nursing home and have a high economic cost.

The new findings, published online Oct. 29 in the journal bmj.com, suggest that "reducing the risk of falling and improving protective responses during a fall may be an important and feasible means of preventing fractures and other serious injuries in the elderly," the study authors wrote in a journal news release.

Well-designed exercise programs can prevent falls in seniors living at home, but there is a lack of evidence on whether such programs can help prevent fall-related injuries, said French researchers Fabienne El-Khoury and colleagues.

In this review, they analyzed 17 studies that looked at whether fall-prevention exercises lowered seniors' risk of fractures and other injuries caused by falls. More than 4,000 participants were involved in all.

Tai Chi was the exercise in two of the studies, but most of them used gait, balance, strength and functional training, which involves workouts that help people do normal daily activities.

Most of the programs reduced fall-related injuries and appeared to significantly curb falls that lead to fractures, serious injuries and medical care.

Balance training was emphasized in all of the exercises that were effective in preventing falls, the researchers noted.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about older adults and falls.

SOURCE: bmj.com, news release, Oct. 29, 2013