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Lifestyle-Integrated Functional Exercise to Prevent Falls

As part of the University of Sydney’s Lifestyle-Integrated Functional Exercise (LiFE) program, exercises including standing on one leg while brushing your teeth, bending your knees to pack the dishwasher and taking the stairs more often are being promoted as part of fall prevention.

For those aged over 65 who have suffered a fall previously, the non-traditional exercise approach, which focuses on balance and strength training in everyday life, could reduce falls by 30 per cent as they did in a world-first study by the university’s Faculty of Health Sciences.

The study’s lead researcher Professor Lindy Clemson has attributed bad balance and weak ankles and hips as a main cause behind falls in the elderly population, which is why exercises which concentrate on balance training and structure strength are of value.

Professor Clemson said that the problem, however, lays in less than 10 per cent of adults regularly engaging in any sort of strength or balance training.

“What makes our program different is that we encourage people to get creative and do balance and lower limb strength activities whenever the opportunity arises throughout their day, such as sideways walking when hanging out the washing,” she said.

“This program will ultimately increase people’s independence by allowing them to stay mobile and living in their homes for longer.”

In the study carried out by Professor Clemson and colleagues, which was published in the British Medical Journal, 317 men and women aged over 70, living at home, who has suffered two or more falls in the past year were put placed in three groups: the LiFE program, a placebo control that exercise three times weekly, and a group who did traditional balance and strength exercises three times weekly.

It was the LiFE program group that found a 31% reduction in the rate of falls.

Professor Clemson said the lifestyle intervention method was more successful than the structured, traditional exercise method and there was better adherence among subjects.

“One woman in the study told us she now views her kitchen as her gym,” Professor Clemson said.