Objective: To determine the safety and efficacy of an exercise protocol designed to improve strength, mobility, and balance and to reduce subsequent falls in geriatric patients with a history of injurious falls.
Design: A randomized controlled 3-month intervention trial, with an additional 3-month follow-up.
Setting: Out-patient geriatric rehabilitation unit.
Participants: Fifty-seven female geriatric patients (mean age 82 +/- 4.8 years; range 75-90) admitted to acute care or inpatient rehabilitation with a history of recurrent or injurious falls including patients with acute fall-related fracture.
Intervention: Ambulatory training of strength, functional performance, and balance 3 times per week for 3 months. Patients of the control group attended a placebo group 3 times a week for 3 months. Both groups received an identical physiotherapeutic treatment 2 times a week, in which strengthening and balance training were excluded.
Measurements: Strength, functional ability, motor function, psychological parameters, and fall rates were assessed by standardized protocols at the beginning (T1) and the end (T2) of intervention. Patients were followed up for 3 months after the intervention (T3).
Results: No training-related medical problems occurred in the study group. Forty-five patients (79%) completed all assessments after the intervention and follow-up period. Adherence was excellent in both groups (intervention 85.4 +/- 27.8% vs control 84.2 +/- 29.3%). The patients in the intervention group increased strength, functional motor performance, and balance significantly. Fall-related behavioral and emotional restrictions were reduced significantly. Improvements persisted during the 3-month follow-up with only moderate losses. For patients of the control group, no change in strength, functional performance, or emotional status could be documented during intervention and follow-up. Fall incidence was reduced nonsignificantly by 25% in the intervention group compared with the control group (RR:0.753 CI:0.455-1.245).
Conclusions: Progressive resistance training and progressive functional training are safe and effective methods of increasing strength and functional performance and reducing fall-related behavioral and emotional restrictions during ambulant rehabilitation in frail, high-risk geriatric patients with a history of injurious falls.