Evidence Summary

What is an Evidence Summary?

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

Got It, Hide this
  • Rating:

Personalized home-based exercise programs improve strength, balance and lower risk of falls

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;82:72-84.

Review question

Do personalized home-based exercise programs reduce falls and improve physical performance (physical activity, balance, mobility and strength) among older people?  


Falls are the leading cause of injury-related hospital visits in many countries, particularly among people over age 65 and can also contribute to lower activity levels, balance and function. Previous research shows exercise programs can help reduce falls.  The purpose of this review was to measure the effectiveness of personalized exercise programs that are focused on reducing falls among community-dwelling older adults.

How the review was done

This is a systematic review and meta-analysis of 12 studies (including 11 randomized controlled trials) published between 1997 and 2014.  In total, the studies involved over 2500 people with an average age of 80 years. In each of the studies, at least half of the participants were aged 60 years and over. The studies all included some type of tailored (personalized) home-based exercise program focused on lower body strength, balance, and mobility. The amount of times participants exercised every week varied in different studies: in some, participants exercised daily and in others they exercised three to five times a week.

The programs ranged from 6 weeks to 2 years in length. The impact of the programs was measured at follow-up, which ranged from 2 months to 2 years after the programs. The researchers used 17 different measures to assess the impacts of the exercise programs on participants, including:

  • Total number of falls among participants
  • Number of participants who had falls
  • How often participants had falls
  • Number of injuries and fractures from falls
  • Physical performance (e.g. balance, strength or mobility)


The researchers compared these measurements to people in a control group who received the usual care, home visits from health care workers, and education on falls prevention.


What the researchers found

People in personalized exercise programs are less likely to experience falls. The exception was one study including people who had recently left the hospital and were recovering from acute health problems; different approaches may be needed for more high risk groups such as these.

Personalized exercise programs improved balance, leg strength, function and physical activity. There was no difference in the number of injuries and fractures between people in personalized exercise program groups and control groups. There is value in promoting personalized exercise programs to older people living at home as one way to lower their risk of falling and improve balance, strength and function.



Personalized home-based exercise programs help lower the risk of falls and improve physical performance including balance, physical activity and leg strength for older adults in the community.



Control group
A group that receives either no treatment or a standard treatment.
Advanced statistical methods contrasting and combining results from different studies.
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

  • Peripheral Arterial Disease and Exercise

    Health Link B.C.
    Being physically active can help in the management and prevention of Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD). Supervised, facility-based specialized exercise programs may potentially help relieve leg pain and improve walking ability in people with PAD. Unsupervised, structured home-based exercise programs are also an option. Consult with your health care provider prior to initiating any type of exercise program.
  • Fitness: Using a Pedometer or Step Counter

    Health Link B.C.
    Walking can help boost your level of physical activity. Tracking your daily step count using a pedometer or step counter allows you to identify your activity level so you can then set goals to be more active.
  • Patient education: Pelvic floor muscle exercises (Beyond the Basics)

    UpToDate - patient information
    Pelvic floor muscles work to support the organs in the pelvis, such as the bladder and rectum. When these muscles are weakened—naturally through age, an injury, or some other contributing factor—it can result in urinary and fecal incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. Pelvic floor exercises (i.e. Kegel exercises) can help to enhance the strength of these muscles and improve symptoms.
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).

Register for free access to all Professional content

Want the latest in aging research? Sign up for our email alerts.

Support for the Portal is largely provided by the Labarge Optimal Aging Initiative. AGE-WELL is a contributing partner. Help us to continue to provide direct and easy access to evidence-based information on health and social conditions to help you stay healthy, active and engaged as you grow older. Donate Today.

© 2012 - 2020 McMaster University | 1280 Main Street West | Hamilton, Ontario L8S4L8 | +1 905-525-9140 | Terms Of Use