A study published recently in the Britsh Medical Journal has shown that integrating balance and strength exercises into daily life can significantly reduce the risk of a repeat fall. The study was conducted on people 70 years or older, living in the community and having two or more falls, or one injurious fall, in the past year.
There were 3 groups, a control group, a group engaged in structured exercise using weighted ankle cuffs and a group assigned a Lifestyle integrated Functional Exercise (LiFE) programme designed by the University of Sydney. This programme involved embedding balance and lower limb strength training into daily routines, such as walking, stepping over objects and moving from sitting to standing.
The study, conducted over a year, found a significant (31%) reduction in the rate of falls for participants in the LiFE programme compared with the control group. The overall incidence of falls in the LiFE programme was 1.66 per person years, compared with 1.90 in the structured programme and 2.28 in the control group. There was a non-significant reduction in the rate of falls for participants in the structured programme compared to the control group.
In New South Wales a report puts the amount of older adults doing strength training at less than 10%. I was not able to find a figure for the UK but the fact is that only 8% currently go to the gym regularly and only 17% of men and 12% of women in the 65-74 age bracket are reaching recommended levels of exercise a week (taken from the 204 Chief Medical Offices Report).
The 2011 Chief Medical Officers report, Start Active, Stay Active gives the following recommendations for strength training:
- Older adults should also undertake physical activity to improve muscle strength on at least two days a week.
- Older adults at risk of falls should incorporate physical activity to improve balance and co-ordination on at least two days a week.
The study also suggested that exercise incorporated into every day life resulted to greater adherence to the programme.
As well as helping reduce the risk of falls there are many other benefits of strength training for older adults,
For more information about the report please click here which will take you the the BMJ.
I run a small exercise group in Farnham in the beautiful Farnham Park which combines a brisk walk with strength training. It caters to all levels of fitness and it is always lovely to see new faces.
Before starting any new exercise program please check with your doctor and clear any exercise changes with them.