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Exercise keeps older people on their feet

26 January 2011 - 2:25pm

Old people at risk of falling should be advised to take up exercise, according to new guidelines.

And, contrary to earlier belief, a combination of anti-falling measures seems to work better than just one.

The guidelines, by the British Geriatric Society and the American Geriatrics Society, also recommend assessments of older people’s feet and footwear, their ability to carry out daily activities and their fear of falling. Falls are a major cause of injury among older people.

The British Geriatric Society and the American Geriatrics Society advise health professionals to ask older patients if they are unsteady on their feet or have fallen recently. If so, say the specialists, look out for known problems such as muscle weakness, poor balance or blood pressure that drops too much on standing.

The new publication (Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 59, 148-157; 2011) is the first update of guidelines on preventing falls in older people since 2001.

Meanwhile campaigners warn that UK falls-prevention programmes are under threat from cost-cutting.

‘There is a serious shortage of the kind of evidence-based exercise programmes that are often developed by physiotherapists and are crucial to improving strength and balance,’ says Michelle Mitchell, charity director of Age UK.


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