Keeping People in Their Nike's

Elderly people fell less often when trained in a way that was part of everyday life

(RxWiki News) When elderly people get injured from falling, it can affect their overall health and quality of life. Training programs for balance and strength may help people avoid falling.

A recent study asked elderly people who had a history of falling to learn exercises that would help with balance and strength.

The program taught them how to add little tasks during their daily life. Training in this way lowered the number of falls by about 30 percent. 

"Ask your doctor about programs to improve balance."

The study, led by Lindy Clemson, professor of occupational therapy and aging at the University of Sydney in Australia, enrolled over 300 people over age 70.

People in the study had more than two falls or at least one fall that resulted in an injury within the last year.

People with dementia, were not able to walk well, or who had a disease that affected walking were not part of the study.

The researchers did tests of balance and strength and asked the people in the study about any times they fell. They tested the people at the beginning of the study and followed up with them one year later.

People in the study did one of three training programs.

One-hundred and seven people did the LiFE program. It was designed to teach balance and strength by getting skills into every day life.

The LiFE program teaches people to do things like:  “reduce base of support”, “shift weight from foot to foot”, “step over objects” and “turning and changing direction.”

These skills were tailored for each person so that they could be used and practiced in every day activities.

For example, some people were shown how to do certain movements when standing in the kitchen. Those movements were aimed at helping improve balance or strength.

Another group of 105 people were trained on a structured exercise program. It taught them balance and strength training exercises. The program was structured to be done three times a week.

Both the LiFE and exercise program were taught in seven sessions over six months.

The third group of 105 people did gentle exercise. They were taught 12 flexibility exercises that could be done while sitting or laying down. 
There were 31 percent fewer falls in the group of people trained using LiFE than in the people who just did the flexibility training.

During the study, there were 172 falls in the LiFE group, 193 in the structured exercise group, and 224 in the flexibility training group.

The authors concluded that the LiFE program is good for reducing falls. They believe it helps by integrating skills into daily life, so people get more practice all throughout their day.

More people dropped out of the structured exercise than the other two programs.

dailyRx News spoke with Carla Perissinotto, MD, about the results of this study. She said that the program excluded many people with the highest risk for falls, like those with dementia.

The people who may be helped by a program like LiFE may be limited.

Dr. Perissinotto said, "It is interesting to think that perhaps a more targeted intervention would be good, especially if this was an intervention seen over a longer period.  So in that sense the results are promising."

The cost of taking part in a program like LiFE is not known.

This study was published August 7 in the British Medical Journal. The study was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
August 29, 2012