It’s estimated that each year, at least 30 percent of people over the age of 65 experience a fall. All too often in older individuals, a fall can lead to a spine or hip fracture, triggering a downward spiral of health-related ills. Exercise, particularly balance and muscle-strengthening (resistance) exercises, is recommended to reduce the risk of falling.
A Cochrane Database review of 108 randomized, controlled trials involving 23,407 older adults confirms the value of this advice. Across these trials, exercise in general was found to reduce the risk of falling by 23 percent when compared with interventions that were not thought to reduce falls. Translating that statistic into practical language, the authors estimate that if you followed 1,000 people and there were 850 falls over the course of a year, there would be 195 fewer falls if the people had exercised.
The review, which was published in 2019, also found that specific types of exercises—most commonly balance and functional exercises (for example, climbing stairs and chair squats) plus resistance exercises—reduced the rate of falls by 34 percent when compared with inactivity. Tai chi, which is often recommended to improve balance, reduced the rate of falls by 19 percent.
If you are over 65, and especially if you have osteoporosis or osteopenia (low bone mass), it’s a smart move to include balance exercises in your workout to help reduce your risk of falling.