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Importance of strength and balance

The importance of strength and balance exercise to prevent falls

41% of over 70s don’t realise how important good strength and balance is to reduce falls, according to new research commissioned by Ageing Better.

Each year, around 30% of people aged 65 and over will have a fall, which can result in serious injury. There were 57,712 hip fractures in England in 2014/15, and falls account for over 4 million hospital bed days every year.

Maintaining and improving muscle strength and ability to balance is crucial in reducing risk but also critical in helping people live independently as they get older.

The research by Ipsos MORI for the Centre for Ageing Better shows that many people in all age groups aged 40 and over are confused about what activities help with improving their strength and balance.

Louise Ansari, Director of Communications and Programme Director for Physical Activity at the Centre for Ageing Better, said:

“It is a sad state of affairs that there are over 250,000 emergency admissions of older people to hospital for falls every year, when so many falls and fractures could be prevented by simple exercises that improve people’s strength and balance.

 “People can improve their own strength and balance by doing more activities like carrying shopping and doing the gardening as well as exercise like dance and tai chi.

 “The NHS and local authorities can help to prevent falls by commissioning evidence based services that improve strength and balance and making them available to those most at risk.”

A total of 93% of respondents said it was important for someone their age to do strength and balance exercises or activities twice a week. But over a third (35%) didn’t realise that heavy gardening jobs such as digging counted as well as nearly half (46%) not realising that carrying heavy loads such as groceries counted.

95% said that walking was a helpful activity, but in fact moderate or slow walking does not improve muscle strength or balance despite it being good for general health.

The study is accompanied by the publication today of a Falls and Fracture Consensus Statement outlining actions that the health, care and housing sectors can take to help prevent older people having falls and fractures.

It has been produced by the National Falls Prevention Coordination Group, whose membership includes Public Health England, the NHS and a number of charities and professional bodies, to encourage better identification of people at risk of falls so they can receive the support they need.

Recommendations include providing exercise programmes that improve strength and balance and reducing hazards in the home.

Professor Kevin Fenton, Public Health England National Director for Health and Wellbeing, said:

“Falls can pose a very serious health issue for older people and often lead to a loss of confidence and independence.

 “Sadly they are all too common, each year around a third of people aged 65 and over and half of those aged 80 and over experience a fall. It’s vital that as people get older they get the support to stay healthy and maintain their strength and balance through being physically active. This statement and advice on preventing falls and injuries will be invaluable for those working with older people.”

The National Falls Prevention Coordination Group

The National Falls Prevention Coordination Group, which is convened by Public Health England. The group includes the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, Chief Fire Officers Association, British Geriatric Society, British Rheumatology Society, Centre for Ageing Better, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, College of Occupational Therapy, College of Paramedics, National Osteoporosis Society, NHS England, NHS Improvement, Public Health England, Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of General Practitioners and Royal College of Physicians.