Following a programme of physical exercise based on balance and building muscle strength reduces the risk of injury from falls by nearly 20% in women aged over 75 years. This study, conducted by Patricia Dargent, has just been published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). ©fotolia
Falls are very common in older people, with approximately one in three people over the age of 65 experiencing at least one fall per year. The resulting injuries often require medical care, and lead to a significantly altered quality of life and accelerated functional decline that can in turn lead to a progressive loss of autonomy and admission to a healthcare facility.
In total, 706 women aged 75-85 years (mean age 80), living in their own homes and with reduced balance and walking ability, participated in the Ossébo trial in 20 study centres distributed throughout France. Participants were randomly assigned to 2 groups, one group that underwent the exercise programme and a “control” group with no intervention.
The exercise programme involved weekly sessions in small groups supervised by a facilitator, supplemented by exercises to do at home at least once a week, all for a period of 2 years.
For the 2 years of the study, women in the “intervention” group had significantly fewer traumatic falls (falls causing moderate to severe injuries, requiring medical care or impeding activities of daily living for at least 3 days) than women in the control group. They also scored better on clinical tests of balance and walking, and considered themselves to be in better physical health than women in the control group.
These results also show that subjects living in disadvantaged areas are more vulnerable to even brief episodes of atmospheric pollution. Most importantly, they indicate that this population, although chronically exposed to high levels of nitrogen dioxide (like other populations), is at a still higher risk during peaks of pollution.
“We are seeing populations being continuously compromised by the effects of chronic pollution. People thus compromised then ‘succumb’ to peaks of pollution, and the less privileged social categories are the main victims,” explains Denis Zmirou, co-author of the study.
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