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LIFE Program Can Give Balance and Strength to Elderly

Update Date: Aug 08, 2012 07:22 AM EDT

During old age it is very important for a person to maintain good bodily balance and strength, as any injury at that stage of life may take much longer to heal. A new LIFE program to be included in the daily routine may just equip them and give confidence of movement.

Maintaining good balance and strength is known to reduce falls in older adults, but unfortunately, less than 10% of older people engage in such trainings. If the amount of activity is low, there are higher chances of it challenging bodily balance.  

Doctors suggest older adults to make exercise a part of their daily routine, but it has never been investigated whether older people actually benefit from this practice or any reduction of risk of falls in them. 

For the study which involved 317 men and women who were 70 years of age or older, a team of researchers at the University of Sydney designed and tested the Lifestyle integrated Functional Exercise (LiFE) program.

The program involves embedding balance and lower limb strength training into daily routines, such as walking, stepping over objects and moving from sitting to standing, the press release stated.

The researchers then compared the results of those following Life program with another structured exercise program which (performed three times a week using ankle cuff weights) and gentle 'sham' exercises (control group).

All the participants in the study had had two or more falls, or one injurious fall, in the last one year. 

The researchers, along with recording any falls over 12 months, also measured  static and dynamic balance, ankle, knee and hip strength, daily living activities, and quality of life in the participants of the study. 

The findings revealed that there was a significant (31 percent) reduction in the rate of falls for participants in the LiFE program compared with the control group. 

There over all incidences of falls in people who followed LiFE program was 1.66 per person, compared with 1.90 in the structured program and 2.28 in the control group.

When compared to control group, there was hardly any reduction in falls among people who followed the structured program.

 Also, there were improvements seen in LiFE participants in static as well as dynamic balance.  This suggests that LiFE program certainly improves both fall risk and frailty. 

LiFE program "provides an alternative to traditional exercise for older people to reduce falls, to improve function in doing activities and to enhance participation in daily life," concluded the authors.

For fall prevention programs to be effective in older people, "therapeutic exercises, education, and physical activities need to be sustainable, enjoyable, and effective over the long term," Professor Meg Morris from the University of Melbourne said in an accompanying editorial.

"The belief that falls should be accepted and tolerated as part of the ageing process is a myth that needs dispelling. Many falls can and should be prevented," she added.

The study was published in British Medical Journal.

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