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Falls in the elderly: proven benefits of exercise

Following on from others, a new trial has shown the benefits of exercise in preventing falls with trauma in elderly women.

Preventing falls in the elderly relies chiefly on non-drug measures. The combination of vitamin D + calcium possibly reduces the risk of fractures.

A comparative clinical trial carried out in Finland sought to evaluate the effectiveness of exercise and vitamin D supplements in preventing falls with trauma. For around two years this trial monitored more than 400 women aged between 70 and 80, living at home and who had had a fall during the previous year. The exercise classes (including strengthening muscle power and improving balance, individually or in groups) were held twice a week during the first year and once a week the second year, and run by physiotherapists. On the other days of the week, exercises were recommended to do at home for 5 to 15 minutes. The women in the groups that did not do exercise had to maintain their usual moderate level of exercise. 

The incidence of falls with trauma, but not fracture, requiring  medical care was lower among the women doing exercise, whether or not they took vitamin D.

No severe adverse effects were reported.

In practice, like others, these results show the importance of exercise for reducing the risk of falls with trauma in the elderly. But they do not indicate that vitamin D supplements are beneficial.

©Prescrire 1 October 2016

"Exercise useful for elderly women" Prescrire Int 2016; 25 (175): 246. (Pdf, subscribers only).

Download the full review.
Pdf, subscribers only

See also:

Vitamin D "insufficiency"
in adults. Beware of vague
concepts with uncertain
clinical relevance
Prescrire Int 2013;
22 (142): 245-248.
Pdf, subscribers only