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Does Life-span Achievement of Current Physical Activity Recommendations Reduce the Likelihood of Falling? (Abstract)

By Rachel Wright, Paul D. Robinson and D.M. Peters


While some training studies have identified that walking increases strength and reduces functional limitations in older adults, others have identified that aerobic physical activity is ineffective in preventing loss of muscle strength associated with ageing (Harridge et al., 1997: Aging, 9, 80 – 87). As muscle weakness in the legs has been found to be predictive of falls, this would appear to be problematic for aerobic-based physical activity recommendations for the prevention of falls. The purpose of this study was to identify whether ‘‘fallers’’ and ‘‘non-fallers’’ demonstrated significantly different levels of attainment of the current physical activity recommendations over the life course. Self-report lifetime physical activity was obtained through estimation of how many days per week an individual accumulated 30 min or more of at least moderate-intensity physical activity during each decade of their adult life. A fall was identified as a loss of balance resulting in the body, or part of the body, coming to rest on the ground. Ethical approval was granted through institutional procedures undertaken at departmental level. The participants were 74 males (mean age 71.7 years, s¼7.4) and 228 females (mean age 71.0 years, s¼7.5; range 54 – 94) with 72% indicating that they had experienced a fall. Differences between the sexes were apparent for the number of days active in their thirties (females: mean 6.41 days, s¼1.98; males: mean 5.73 days, s¼2.01 days; t308¼2.56, P50.05). Independent samples t-tests showed that while ‘fallers’ (mean 4.75 days, s¼2.15) were currently less active than ‘‘non-fallers’’ (mean 5.43 days, s¼2.03; t305¼2.52, P50.05), there was no significant difference in the number of days on which they had performed 30 min or more of moderateintensity physical activity in any of the decades throughout the life-span. When participants were then classified as either active or inactive in relation to achieving 5630 min per week, chi-square tests revealed no differences in proportional attainment of the recommended amounts of physical activity in fallers and non-fallers in any decade. Although demonstrating a progressive decline in physical activity through the decades, the sample was more active than the current population in each decade, with the majority attaining recommended amounts of physical activity into their seventies. Attainment of current physical activity guidelines throughout the life-span would not appear to reduce the likelihood of falling and would suggest that strength-based physical activity recommendations may be needed in addition to the current general health guidelines if the number of falls in older adults is to be significantly reduced

Topics: R1
Publisher: Routledge
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