At least one-third of community-living Australians aged 65 years and over fall every year, with even higher rates for people in aged-care facilities and hospitals. Falls are also the leading cause of injury-related death and hospitalisation in these people. An older person is over three times more likely to be admitted to a nursing home after a fall than before, and over ten times more likely after a fall that caused an injury.
Falls can result in permanent disability, restriction of activity, loss of confidence and fear of falling, all of which reduce quality of life and independence. The economic cost of fall-related injuries is estimated at more than double that of injuries in car accidents.
There is now good evidence that exercise can prevent falls in older people by decreasing a number of key risk factors. For example, exercise can improve muscular strength, balance, balance confidence and walking speed, as well as psychological factors such as mental ability and mood.
Exercise Right recommends engaging in exercise programs that include balance training. In order to be effective, interventions must be performed regularly, be of sufficient duration (at least 2 hours per week) and be ongoing. These factors increase the chance of exercise successfully preventing falls.