Falls and fractures among older adults can lead to long-term disabilities. However, doctors have now found a simple solution to avoid accidents: regular exercise.
Researchers from the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recently conducted a review, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, to determine the best practices to avoid falls among people age 65 and older.
To do so, they examined data from about 20 studies that gathered the health records of older adults, some of who were at high risk for falling. They also evaluated evidence on vitamin D supplementation, which has been linked to a reduced risk of decreased bone density.
After analyzing the data, they found that exercise decreased the likelihood of falls and injuries related to falls. In fact, they discovered there was a 10 to 20 percent reduced risk.
“It’s abundant evidence,” said Madeleine Hackney, geriatrics professor at Emory University, who was not a part of the trial. “As we get older, we lose muscle mass. The way to get stronger is to strengthen them on a regular basis.”
The researchers listed several types of exercises that are beneficial for older adults, including cardio, resistance training and even tai-chi.
However, they said vitamin D may not be as effective in preventing fractures. They recommend against vitamin D supplementation to limit falls among adults 65 and older, because they did not see a consistent benefit. Those with a vitamin D deficiency are an exception.
“Pooled analyses showed neither a significant reduction in falls nor a significant effect on the number of persons experiencing a fall with vitamin D supplementation,” the authors wrote.
Hackney called those findings “interesting.”
“That’s going in the face of common practice. Doctors are prescribing it, but the evidence is not backing it up,” she said.
Despite the results, Hackney said there are several different approaches to strengthening the body.
“The most important thing is that they find something they like to do where they can be nurtured and supported,” she advised. “If you do it regularly, you body will note.”