Residents who exercise are far less likely to suffer falls, a recent analysis finds. Educating staff on polypharmacy issues also helped reduce incidents.

Researchers reviewed falls intervention studies involving 30,000 eldercare community residents. They discovered that exercise as a single intervention reduced the number of fallers by 36% and recurrent fallers by 41%. Residents typically participated in a combination of gait, balance and functional training, along with strength and resistance training.

The results may not apply to residents with cognitive impairment however, wrote Andrea Iaboni, M.D., Ph.D., from the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, Canada. Residents with dementia were not typically included in the exercise-only interventions, she explained. 

Among other fall-prevention strategies studied, staff education stood out. Recurrent falls decreased when nursing and physician staff were educated on polypharmacy risks. These communities also experienced a notable decrease in antipsychotic use and inappropriate drug use, the researchers wrote. In contrast, medication review alone had no effect on number of falls. 

Overall, the findings “demonstrate the critical role of exercise in improving physical and functional performance,” wrote Iaboni. 

Full findings were published in JAMDA.