Effectiveness of workshops to teach a home-based exercise program (BEST at Home) for preventing falls in community-dwelling people aged 65 years and over: a pragmatic randomised controlled trial
Background: Falls are a significant public health issue. There is strong evidence that exercise can prevent falls and the most effective programs are those that primarily involve balance and functional exercises, however uptake of such programs is low. Exercise prescribed during home visits by health professionals can prevent falls however this strategy would be costly to deliver at scale. We developed a new approach to teach home exercise through group-based workshops delivered by physiotherapists. The primary aim was to determine the effect of this approach on the rate of falls among older community-dwelling people over 12 months. Secondary outcomes included the proportion of people falling, fear of falling, physical activity, lower limb strength, balance and quality of life. Methods: A randomised controlled trial was conducted among community-dwelling people aged ≥65 in New South Wales, Australia. Participants were randomised to either the intervention group (exercise targeting balance and lower limb strength) or control group (exercise targeting upper limb strength). Results: A total of 617 participants (mean age 73 years, +SD 6, 64% female) were randomly assigned to the intervention group (n = 307) or control group (n = 310). There was no significant between-group difference in the rate of falls (IRR 0.91, 95% CI 0.64 to 1.29, n = 579, p = 0.604) or the number of participants reporting one or more falls (IRR 0.99, 95% CI 0.76 to 1.29, n = 579, p = 0.946) during 12 month follow-up. A significant improvement in the intervention group compared to control group was found for fear of falling at 3, 6 and 12 months (mean difference 0.50, 95% CI 0.2 to 0.8, p = 0.004; 0.39, 95% CI 0.001 to 0.8, p = 0.049; 0.46, 95% CI 0.006 to 0.9, p = 0.047, respectively), and gait speed at 3 months (mean difference 0.09 s, 95% CI 0.003 to 0.19, p = 0.043). No statistically significant between-group differences were detected for the other secondary outcomes. Conclusions: There was no significant intervention impact on the rate of falls, but the program significantly reduced fear of falling and improved gait speed. Other exercise delivery approaches are needed to ensure an adequate intensity of balance and strength challenge and dose of exercise to prevent falls.
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National Health and Medical Research Council