Monday, 14 December, 1998, 15:33 GMT- BBC News Online Health
The right kind of exercise can half the risk of elderly people who have suffered a fall falling and injuring themselves again, research has found.
Every year in Britain one-third of all those over 65 years old fall. Only 10% of these actually injure themselves and break something, but time spent in hospital or recovering at home is a period of inactivity that further weakens the bones, muscles and confidence.
The annual cost to the NHS of treating such injuries is estimated to be £940m.
But a tailored exercise programme can help people with osteoporosis, arthritis and other conditions, according to a study
Yvette Nevrkla, a fitness instructor in London, said: “When people slip over and break something, whether it’s on a slippery pavement or something, the result can be a fracture of either the hip, the spine or the wrist.
“From then it can be quite a downward spiral in their physical health and mental health.”
Adults lose 10% of their muscular strength for every decade of life, but exercise can reverse that trend.
A study by the Royal Free Hospital in London found that after a 12-week exercise programme, older adults had increased their strength by 30% – equivalent to regaining three decades of lost strength.
The types of exercise recommended, such as aqua-aerobics or seated aerobics, also help improve balance – essential if falls are to be avoided.
She said that classes run by a qualified instructor could be very valuable. The important point was that an exercise regime should be tailored to the individual, she said. A lot of work has shown that you can do a general regular exercise class weekly for years and although it may improve your independence but it may not reduce falls.
“You have to tailor the exercise to suit want you want to improve in the same way an athlete would want to work on their particular sport. It’s the same thing for older people.” She added that there were significant benefits in terms of social contact to be gained from group exercise.