Researchers from UQ’s School of Human Movement Studies found that only 42 per cent of residents who took part in a twice-weekly exercise program experienced at least one fall, compared to 81 per cent in the non-exercise group.
The study was conducted at Lady Small Haven Aged Care Service at Benowa, which runs a falls prevention program.
The results compared favourably with the success of other falls prevention programs for non-aged care facility residents.
UQ Research Fellow Dr Geeske Peeters said the study aimed to reduce the number of falls in aged care facilities, which is currently an average of 1.5 falls for each bed per year.
“The program is clearly enjoyed by many of the residents, but we needed to evaluate if it is actually doing what it is aimed to do, and that is to prevent falls,” Dr Peeters said.“While the results look very promising, it is important to note that the two groups differed in their level of physical functioning and that participation was voluntary.
“Those who participated in the exercise program may have been fitter and less likely to fall than those in the non-participating group.
“Differences in physical functioning were accounted for in the analyses, but it cannot be ruled out that this may have biased the findings,” she said.Churches of Christ Queensland Research Facilitator Carmela Lagasca arranged the partnership with UQ to run the study. She said the team was keen to find out whether the exercise programs were working.
“There is strong evidence that well-designed exercise programs can prevent falls by older people living in the general community,” Ms Lagasca said.
“However, evidence of the effectiveness of such programs to prevent falls by residents in aged care is lacking.
“Churches of Christ in Queensland is excited about these results and the possibility of expanding the study.
“We are now looking at options to evaluate this program in a large scale study in collaboration with The University of Queensland,” she said.
School of Human Movement Studies lecturer Dr Tina Skinner said it was important to evaluate the exercise program in a proper randomised, controlled trial in which the exercise and control groups were similar in terms of their physical and mental functioning at the start of the program.
“In a larger study, we would also look at the effectiveness of the exercise program in specific sub-groups, for example, residents with dementia,” Dr Skinner said.
“As the population ages, both the number of people with dementia and the number of falls will significantly increase.
“It is therefore imperative that cost-effective and sustainable strategies be trialled to counter the problem of falls in this high-risk group of Australians.”
Contact: Janelle Hocking, Marketing and Communications, UQ School of Human Movement Studies, firstname.lastname@example.org