Risk of falls in elderly decreases with increased exercise

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As if there's already not enough support for the benefits of exercise, a new study says a regular exercise program can lower an elderly woman's risk of falling and might even offer long-lasting effects.

Researchers studying 98 women between the ages of 75 and 85 while they participated in a 6-month exercise program, found that the risk of suffering a fall was still lower one year after the program ended. One year later, the women who had done strength training, including lifting light weights and doing exercises like squats and lunges, were 43% less likely to fall than they were at the study's outset.

The findings are a follow-up to an earlier study in which the researchers, led by Dr. Teresa Y. L. Liu-Ambrose of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, had found that supervised strength training and agility exercises cut the women's risk of falls by as much as 57%. All of the women in the study had low bone mass or osteoporosis.

Falls are a major cause of disability among the elderly, and those with the brittle-bone disease osteoporosis are at particular risk of sustaining a bone fracture. The new findings were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
(Published 11-8-05)