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Evidence Summary

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Exercise programs help prevent falls but not broken bones among older adults in long-term care facilities

Silva R, Eslick G, Duque G  Exercise for falls and fracture prevention in long term care facilities: A systematic review and meta-analysis  J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2013; 14(9):685-9

Review question

What are the most effective exercise programs to prevent falls and broken bones among long-term care residents?

Background

Falls and broken bones are common among older adults. This is particularly true for people living in long term care where residents tend to be more frail, increasing their risk of falling and their risk of experiencing injuries if they do. Previous studies have shown that exercise programs help to prevent falls and broken bones among older adults living independently, but the benefits for residents in long-term care is not clear.

How the review was done

This is a summary of a systematic review of 12 randomized controlled trials. The 1292 study participants were all over the age of 60 and living in long term care facilities.  The majority of participants were women (68%), and the average age was 84 years. The studies measured the impact of different exercise programs on the prevention of falls and broken bones.

What the researchers found

Exercise programs helped prevent falls, especially those which included a combination of different exercises and were offered 2-3 times a week.  Shorter-term programs (1-3 months) and long-term programs (over 6 months) were the most effective, likely because the shorter programs were more intensive and participants in the longer programs gained more benefit from the programs over time.  Most programs involved balance and muscle strength training; others also included endurance, stretching, gait, mobility, and walking.  Exercise programs did not help to prevent broken bones.

Conclusion

Exercise programs that include a combination of different exercises help prevent falls among older adults living in long term care facilities, but do not appear to help prevent broken bones.  For greatest benefit, participants should attend 2-3 times a week for at least 6 months.




Glossary

Randomized controlled trials
Studies where people are assigned to one of the treatments purely by chance.
Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

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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).

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