Music-based exercise reduces falls in elderly people

An elderly woman has fallen
Image caption The rate of falls reduced by half when over 65s were enrolled in the exercise class

Exercising to music can help elderly people improve their balance and reduce the number of falls they have, a study has found.

Swiss doctors noted a 50% reduction in falls when groups of over-65s exercised to music for an hour each week over six months.

The benefits were still apparent six months later, the study in Archives of Internal Medicine reveals.

UK experts said this was more proof that exercise could help prevent falls.

Dr Andrea Trombetti and his team, from University Hospitals and the Faculty of Medicine in Geneva, found that walking speed and stride length also increased in those participating.

In the year-long study, one group of 66 elderly people followed the music-based approach for six months, while another group of 68 followed normal exercise activities.

At the mid-point of the study, the groups switched over so that the second group followed the music-based exercise program for the next six months while the initial group returned to normal exercise.

The average age of participants was 75 years, and 96% were women.

Participants were asked to perform a number of exercises to piano music, including a wide range of movements that challenged the body's balance control system.

The difficulty of these movements was gradually increased over time by an instructor who led the music-based exercise class.

Researchers found that the experimental program produced beneficial results.

During the six months of exercising to music, there were half the number of falls expected in both groups.

Dr Trombetti said: "Our findings suggest that this program may be useful for fall prevention and rehabilitation in community-based settings."

Michelle Mitchell, charity director at Age UK, said evidence showed that specific programmes for improving strength and balance can reduce the risk of falls by as much as 55%.

"If all over 65s followed a tailored exercise programme we would prevent 7,000 unnecessary deaths a year.

"One in three people over the age of 65 will fall each year and the consequences can often be extremely serious including loss of mobility, independence and even death.

"And while falls are traumatic for the individual, they cost the NHS and social care an estimated £6m per day. This is why investment in falls prevention services which meet national standards is so essential."

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