- Wednesday, 08 August 2012
Performing simple exercises can reduce the number of falls among the elderly by almost a third, according to new research.
Up to one in three over-65s suffer at least one fall every year - costing the NHS in England up to £4.6 million a day.
Falls are a major cause of injury and death in the over-70s, accounting for more than half of hospital admissions for accidental injury.
But a study has found that those who took part in a court to improve balance and strength suffer 31 per cent fewer accidents.
The programme was tested on more than 300 over-70s and involved daily training routines such as walking, stepping over objects and moving from sitting to standing.
A team of researchers at the University of Sydney developed the LiFE (Lifestyle integrated Functional Exercise) plan.
Professor Lindy Clemson, an ageing specialist, said: "LiFE is a tailored programme of embedded balance and strength activities, taught over five home visits with two booster visits.
"It provides an alternative to traditional exercise to consider for fall prevention.
"Functional based exercise should be a focus for interventions to protect older, high risk people from falling and to improve and maintain functional capacity."
Less than ten per cent of older people regularly perform strength training exercises - with even fewer undertaking activities to challenge balance.
In the study, people who had suffered at least two minor falls or one that caused injury in the past year were split into three treatment groups with any future falls recorded.
Activities like static and dynamic balance, ankle, knee and hip strength, daily living activities and quality of life were also measured.
The number of falls for those in the LiFE programme was 1.66 per person years, compared with 2.28 in the control group and 1.9 in the structured programme.
LiFE participants also showed improvements in both static and dynamic balance, ankle strength and in function and participation in daily life.
Prof Clemson added: "Falling in older age has debilitating and isolating social consequences, along with high and escalating economic costs.
"Falls can start a downward spiral of immobility, reduced confidence, and incapacity leading to institutionalisation.
"Fall related admissions have not declined over the past ten years, and there is an imperative to develop effective strategies for fall prevention that are acceptable and sustainable over the long term for older people."
The most common injury in elderly people in England who fall over is a hip fracture, with 60,000 people experiencing this each year.
This triggers a huge bill for the NHS - from hip replacement operations, paying for patients to stay in hospital and rehabilitation.
Around 14,000 people in England die after a fall every year.
Professor Meg Morris, of the University of Melbourne, said: "The belief falls should be accepted and tolerated as part of the ageing process is a myth that needs dispelling.
"Many falls can and should be prevented."
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