Exercise is well established as a means for reducing the risk of falls. This is essential knowledge for Savers since falls can cause fractures.
However, there's an additional layer of benefit from exercise that is seldom touted.
Today we'll look at a study that analyzed not just whether participants experienced falls, but how those falls impacted their health.
You'll learn exactly how exercise plays a major role in protecting older people from the worst outcomes of falls.
A Study On Fall-Induced Injuries
A group of French scientists conducted a systematic review of randomized controlled trials of fall prevention exercise interventions. The studies they analyzed included community-dwelling adults over the age of 60.
In total, they looked at 17 trials involving 4,305 participants. Their study broke falls down into four categories: all injurious falls, falls resulting in medical care, severe injurious falls, and falls resulting in fractures.1
Injurious falls included a variety of consequences, ranging from minor injuries like bruises or abrasions to fractures and other serious injuries requiring hospitalization. Basically, any reported injury placed a fall into this category.
Falls resulting in medical care included falls that resulted in any form of medical care. Severe injurious falls included falls that resulted in fractures, head trauma, soft tissue trauma requiring suturing, or any injury requiring hospital admission.
Falls that resulted in fractures included any fall that caused any form or severity of a fracture.
The study examined these outcomes in people with differing levels of exercise and considered how those exercise interventions impacted the outcomes of falls.
French scientists compared 17 trials including 4,305 participants to compare the impact of exercise interventions on the outcomes of falls. They categorized falls into four groups: injurious, requiring medical care, severe injurious, and resulting in fracture.
How Exercise Mitigated The Effects Of Falls
The studies analyzed in this review were designed to determine the ability of exercise to prevent falls. They found exercise to be an effective means of reducing the risk of falling.1
This meta-analysis extracted another layer of information from the studies about outcomes for the participants who did still experience falls. Those studies recorded data about participants who were doing an exercise intervention and participants who were not, which allowed researchers to compare the impact of exercise on fall outcomes.
This study found that not only did exercise reduce the rate of falls, but it prevented injuries from the falls that did occur. The researchers found that the protective effect was the largest for the most severe fall-related injuries.1 The risk was reduced as follows:
- 37% for all injurious falls
- 43% for severe injurious falls
- 61% for falls resulting in fractures
The researchers found that exercise interventions reduced the risk of injuries from falls, with the largest risk reductions for the most serious injuries. Participants doing regular exercise were 61% less likely to break a bone in the event of a fall.
Exercises That Reduced Injuries From Falls
All of the exercise programs in this review emphasized balance training and they all proved effective for fall prevention. That logic is easy to follow. If you're less likely to lose your balance, you're less likely to fall!
The exercise programs in the 17 trials also included gait and functional training, strengthening exercises, flexibility exercises, and endurance exercises. These sorts of activities can improve reaction time, muscle strength, coordination, and both physical and cognitive function.
The researchers suggest that the cognitive benefits are just as important as the physical ones. Those mental benefits improve the speed and effectiveness of protective reflexes, allowing participants to minimize the resulting harm.1
All 17 of the trials reviewed in this analysis included balance training in their exercise intervention. Various trials also included gait and functional training, strengthening exercises, flexibility exercises, and endurance exercises. The researchers highlighted the cognitive benefits of these activities, which help prevent falls and reduce the risk of injuries during falls.
What This Means To You
Regular exercise–especially the kind that builds balance– not only prevents falls but prevents the worst outcomes of falls. That double benefit is exactly what Savers are looking for, multiple layers of protection from fracture.
SaveTrainer, the Save Institute's online video workout platform, offers a variety of classes focused on balance and coordination. In fact, SaveTrainer will design unlimited customized four-week fitness plans for you, based on a series of simple questions. Then you'll have a step-by-step process for attaining the protections discovered in the study we reviewed today.
With new videos continuously added, SaveTrainer keeps your workout fresh and engaging, helping you to maintain your fitness goals and prevent falls and fractures.