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Keywords:

  • aged;
  • randomized controlled trial;
  • exercise;
  • accidental falls;
  • fear of falling

Objectives

To determine the long-term effects of three strength and balance exercise interventions on physical performance, fall-related psychological outcomes, and falls in older people.

Design

A single-blinded, four-group, randomized controlled trial.

Setting

Community, Germany.

Participants

Community-dwelling adults aged 70 to 90 who had fallen in the past 6 months or reported fear of falling.

Intervention

After baseline assessment, 280 participants were randomly assigned to the control group (CG; no intervention; n = 80) or one of three strength and balance exercise interventions (the strength and balance group (SBG; strength and balance only; n = 63), the fitness group (FG; strength and balance plus endurance training; n = 64), or the multifaceted group (MG; strength and balance plus fall risk education; n = 73). The interventions consisted of 32 one-hour group sessions in 16 weeks.

Measurements

Data on physical performance, fall-related psychological outcomes, and falls were collected for 24 months.

Results

Mixed-effects regression analyses showed improved short- and long-term (12 and 24 months, respectively) physical performance for the SBG and FG, particularly regarding mobility, balance, and walking speed (P < .05). The improvements in physical performance outcomes were most prominent in the FG. Fall-related psychological outcomes, number of falls, and injurious falls were not significantly different from in the control group.

Conclusion

Training focusing on strength, balance, and endurance can enhance physical performance for up to 24 months in community-dwelling older adults. These findings did not translate to improved fall-related psychological outcomes or reduced incidence of falls. This demonstrates the need for a different approach (e.g., regarding intervention dose and components) to gain intervention benefits in the multiple domains that contribute to independence and well-being in older adults.