Posted on Oct 13, 2010, 6 a.m.
A regular, long-term program of home-based exercises beneficially improves balance and gait, thereby helping to protect high-risk, elderly women from hip fractures.
Falls are responsible for 90% or more of all hip fractures, which are injuries that are associated with high mortality rates. Raija Korpelainen, from Oulu Deaconess Institute (Finland), and colleagues followed 160 women who participated in a trial aimed at reducing risk factors for fractures in elderly women with osteopenia (a reduction in bone mass, or low levels of bone calcium): 84 women were assigned to an exercise group, while the remaining 76 women served as controls. Women in the exercise group attended supervised balance, leg strength and impact training sessions once a week for a 6-month period annually or 4 years. During the 7.1 year follow-up period, 17 women in the exercise group were hospital-treated for fractures, while 23 fractures occurred in the control group. Additionally, the total incidence rate of fractures in the exercise group was 0.05 per 1,000 women per year versus 0.08 in the control group. The authors found that: "Fractures were proximal in 52.2 percent of the control group and 17.6 percent of the exercise group. Moderate lifelong physical activity decreased the overall risk of having any fractures during the total follow-up period." Additionally, no hip fractures occurred in the exercise group during the follow-up period, while five hip fractures occurred in the control group. The researchers also report that the exercise group also "demonstrated a significant gain compared with the control group in mean leg strength during the trial." The researchers report that: "30 months of supervised, mainly home-based exercises followed by voluntary home training had a positive long-term effect on balance and gait in high-risk elderly women," and that "life-long physical activity was associated with reduced risk of fractures.”
Raija Korpelainen; Sirkka Keinänen-Kiukaanniemi; Pentti Nieminen; Jorma Heikkinen; Kalervo Väänänen; Juha Korpelainen. “Long-term Outcomes of Exercise: Follow-up of a Randomized Trial in Older Women With Osteopenia.” Arch Intern Med, September 2010; 170: 1548 - 1556.