Coinciding with Falls Awareness Month, a new study into the balance exercise program, StandingTall, has shown promising results in significantly reducing the rate of falls over two years by up to 20 per cent.
Falls in older people are common, can have serious consequences (hip fractures, placement in care facilities), are costly to the individual, society and health system, and are preventable.
Published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) this week, the two year trial of 503 Australians aged 70 years and older found the home based e-health balance exercise program, StandingTall, can provide an effective, self-managed fall prevention program for older people living independently.
Neuroscience Research Australia’s (NeuRA) Falls, Balance and Injury Research Centre is spearheading this world-leading research, with StandingTall being the only effective e-Health program in preventing falls in older people to date.
StandingTall is a balance-training app containing over 6,000 exercises to help reduce a person’s risk of falling for up to two years. The app is programmed to suit the ability of the user, and challenges older Australians with increasingly difficult exercises as their balance improves.
With the ability to compete and achieve personal high scores, the program has also been designed to promote adherence and motivation, making it an effective exercise option over the long term.
Professor Kim Delbaere, Study Lead and Senior Principal Research Scientist at the Falls, Balances and Injury Research Centre at NeuRA, said e-Health exercise programs like StandingTall may be an effective way for older people to maintain their independence and quality of life in the future.
Prof Delbaere said:
“For over three decades, falls and fall-related injuries have persistently been a leading cause or morbidity and mortality in older people.
“Research has shown that balance exercise programs are among the most effective strategies to prevent falls in older people.
“This is the first trial to provide evidence that an unsupervised, home-based exercise program using technology designed to improve balance can prevent falls in older community-dwelling people.
The 20 per cent reduction in number of people experiencing a fall that result in an injury over a two year period, could provide significant benefit to the safety and quality of life for our older generation.”
Scalable and easily incorporated into clinical practice, StandingTall provides healthcare professionals with a platform to remotely set up, monitor and tailor the program for their patients.
In addition, the program offers the user full autonomy, requiring minimal interaction with healthcare professionals.
An economic evaluation is planned to determine whether StandingTall represents value for money, with less face-to-face interactions with a healthcare professional.
The complete study can be found here: https://www.bmj.com/content/373/bmj.n740
Key statistics on falls in Australia:
· Falls are one of the most significant health challenges faced by older Australians.
· Every year, one-third of people over 65 years of age experience a major fall, with half of those falling again in the same year. This makes falls the leading cause of hospitalisation among older people.
· Each year, about 20,000 people experience a hip fracture in Australia and New Zealand.
· By 2051, Australia’s fall-related health care costs are predicted to reach $1.4 billion annually.
Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) is an independent, not-for-profit research institute based in Sydney aiming to prevent, treat and cure brain and nervous system diseases, disorders and injuries through medical research.
Find out more at www.neura.edu.au