Exercise programs can help reduce falls and prevent injuries

The Bottom Line

  • The fear of falling is a valid one as the consequences of slips and falls can be severe.
  • Taking measures to prevent fall related injuries is an important part of an optimal aging strategy.
  • Fall prevention exercises have proven to be effective in reducing falls as well as the number and severity of injuries caused by falls.
  • Exercises designed to improve balance are key to preventing falls.

Remember this… “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” ?

The oft-quoted line came from a television ad for a product that would make it easier for people living alone to call for help in the event of a fall.

Many people can relate to the fear of falling – particularly older adults coping with mobility issues and other age-related challenges. Injuries that occur as a result of slips and falls are common and the consequences can be severe: long-term pain, functional impairment, hospitalization and in the worst cases, death (1).

Preventing injuries from falls is important in helping older adults experience a high quality of life, including independent living, engaging in healthy activities and enjoying social and recreational pursuits. One promising preventative measure involves exercise programs targeted to seniors.

What the research tells us

A recent systematic review analyzed the results of 17 randomized controlled trials involving more than 4,300 older adults (average age of 77 years) to determine whether fall prevention exercise programs help to reduce different types of fall related injuries (2). Specific categories of injuries included those resulting in broken bones and those requiring hospitalization.

The review found there was strong evidence that fall prevention exercise programs – delivered either in a group setting or at home – can help prevent falls, and injuries resulting from falls, in older adults living independently. While programs included several types of beneficial exercises such as strength and resistance training, exercises to improve balance were deemed the most effective in preventing falls (3;4;5;6).

Many seniors look forward to retirement and the chance to do things they couldn’t when they were working and raising a family. But the fear of falling and sustaining a serious injury may hold them back. Well-designed exercise programs may be the key to ensuring older adults have the confidence and the ability to live active, healthy lives and pursue those dreams!

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Author Details


  1. Hartholt KA, van Beeck EF, Polinder S, et al. Societal consequences of falls in the older population: Injuries, healthcare costs, and long-term reduced quality of life. J Trauma. 2011; 71:748-53.
  2. El-Khoury F, Cassou B, Charles M, et al. The effect of fall prevention exercise programmes on fall induced injuries in community dwelling older adults: Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BMJ. 2013; 347:f6234.
  3. Campbell AJ, Robertson MC, Gardner MM, et al. Randomised controlled trial of a general practice programme of home based exercise to prevent falls in elderly women. BMJ. 1997; 315:1065-9.
  4. Howe TE, Rochester L, Jackson A, et al. Exercise for improving balance in older people. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007; 4:CD004963.
  5. Hill KD, Hunter SW, Batchelow FA et al. Individualized home-based exercise programs for older people to reduce falls and improve physical performance: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Maturitas. 2015; 82(1):72-84. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2015.04.005.
  6. Sherrington C, Michaleff ZA, Fairhall N, et al. Exercise to prevent falls in older adults: An updated systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med. 2016. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2016-096547.

DISCLAIMER: These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (info@mcmasteroptimalaging.org).

Many of our Blog Posts were written before the COVID-19 pandemic and thus do not necessarily reflect the latest public health recommendations. While the content of new and old blogs identify activities that support optimal aging, it is important to defer to the most current public health recommendations. Some of the activities suggested within these blogs may need to be modified or avoided altogether to comply with changing public health recommendations. To view the latest updates from the Public Health Agency of Canada, please visit their website.