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Strength leads to better balance
Older people who engage in balance and strength training can significantly reduce their risk of falling, a new study suggests.
Researchers from the University of Sydney found that incorporating these types of exercises into routine activities reduced falls among the elderly by nearly one-third. However, less than 10 per cent of older people regularly participate in strength training and even fewer exercised to improve their balance, according to study author Lindy Clemson, a professor in occupational therapy and ageing at the University of Sydney.
Their study involved more than 300 men and women aged 70 or older, all of whom had fallen at least twice or injured themselves in a fall in the preceding year. The researchers assigned the participants to one of three exercise programs.
One group followed what the researchers called the Lifestyle-integrated Functional Exercise program. This incorporated balance and lower limb strength training into the participants’ daily routines. By following this program, the older people worked on their strength and balance while they walked, stepped over objects and moved from sitting to standing.
The second group was given a structured exercise program to complete three times a week using ankle cuff weights. The third group, the “control” group, was assigned gentle “sham” exercises. All of the groups recorded any falls they had over the course of one year. The researchers also measured their static and dynamic balance, ankle, knee and hip strength, and examined their daily living activities and quality of life.
Clemson and colleagues estimated that the lifestyle-integrated exercise group had a 31 per cent reduction in rate of falls, compared with the control group. The lifestyle-integrated exercise participants also improved both static and dynamic balance and ankle strength. Moreover, the study showed they had enhanced function and participation in daily activities.
Participants in the lifestyle-integrated exercise group also adhered to their program better than the people in the other two groups, according to the report published in the online edition of the British Medical Journal. The drop in the rate of falls for the participants in the structured exercise group was insignificant, the authors noted in a journal news release.
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