Once an older adult falls, chances of a repeat incident double, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But a study published June 4 in JAMA found that a program to correct poor balance and rebuild strength significantly may reduce the risk.

The single-blind, randomized clinical trial followed 344 adults aged 70 and older who had fallen within the previous 12 months and had sought subsequent preventive care. Participants received either a CDC-adapted program of home-based balance and strength retraining with a physical therapist or standard fall prevention care by a geriatrician for one year. Standard care included medication adjustment, lifestyle recommendations and referral to other professionals. Those who received the in-home training had fewer subsequent falls than did their study cohorts (1.4 falls versus 2.1 falls per person-year), said lead researcher Teresa Liu-Ambrose, PT, Ph.D.

While the study focused on home-based care, Liu-Ambrose told McKnight’s that similar benefits also might be realized in assisted living and other long-term care settings.

“Based on evidence from other studies of exercise in assisted living or those living in long-term care, exercise does appear to have value for falls prevention in those settings,” she said. “In these settings, in addition to exercise, adjusting medications and careful decisions regarding the use of mobility aids are key factors [in fall prevention].”

Group exercise may offer additional benefits of socialization and cognitive stimulation, she added.