Evidence Summary

What is an Evidence Summary?

Key messages from scientific research that's ready to be acted on

Got It, Hide this
  • Rating:

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?


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.


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.


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.

Related Web Resources

  • Preventing Blood Clots After Hip or Knee Replacement Surgery or Surgery for a Broken Hip: A Review of the Research for Adults

    This patient decision aid helps adults considering or planning to have a total hip or knee replacement surgery or surgery for a broken hip decide on the best method for preventing blood clots after surgery. It facilitates the process by outlining and comparing the benefits, risks and side effects of each treatment option.
  • Healthy Bones: A Decision Aid for Women After Menopause

    This patient decision aid helps women who have gone through menopause and may have osteoporosis decide on methods to keep your bones healthy. It facilitates the process by outlining and comparing the choices such as medicine, menopausal hormone therapy (MHT), and exercise.
  • Osteoporosis screening: topic overview

    Health Link B.C.
    Osteoporosis Canada recommends everyone over age 65 have routine bone density tests. Start routine testing earlier if you are at increased risk for broken bones. Use the FRAX tool to predict your risk of having a fracture related to osteoporosis (link in this resource).
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 (

Register for free access to all Professional content