The effectiveness of physical therapist-administered group-based exercise on fall prevention: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials

J Geriatr Phys Ther. 2013 Oct-Dec;36(4):182-93. doi: 10.1519/JPT.0b013e3182816045.


Background: Falls are a verified cause of morbidity and mortality in adults older than 65 years. Exercise under the direction of a physical therapist has been shown to reduce the risk of falls in older adults; however, it is not clear whether physical therapist-directed group-based exercise could produce similar results.

Purpose: The purpose of this systematic review was to summarize the evidence on the effectiveness of physical therapist-administered group-based exercise when compared with various controls for falls prevention and improvement of quality of life.

Methods: A computerized search of PubMed and CINAHL was performed. An exhaustive hand search was also performed of the references of all full-text articles. Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines were followed for this review. Studies were included if they met the following criteria: (1) comparison of group-based exercise led by a physical therapist to a control group; (2) ambulatory elderly men or women, aged 65 years or older; (3) subjects in the community or institutional setting; (4) the use of 1 or more outcome measures related to functional balance and/or quality of life; (5) randomized controlled or clinical trials; and (6) published in English, between December 1, 2001, and June 7, 2012. The PEDro scale was used to assess the quality of each study included in this review.

Results: The computerized search strategy and hand search revealed 213 potential articles, 10 of which met the inclusion criteria. After assessment with the PEDro scale, 8 of these were considered high-quality studies (score > 6/10). Seven studies compared group-based exercise to a nonexercise control group, while 3 studies compared group-based exercise with a physical therapist-prescribed home exercise program. Outcomes measured include fall rate, balance, physical performance, health-related quality of life, and fear of falling.

Discussion: When group-based exercise was compared with no intervention, group-based exercise was found to be more effective in decreasing fall frequency, increase balance, and improve quality of life. When compared with a physical therapist-prescribed home exercise program, the group-based exercise results were not statistically different but showed improvements in some quality of life and physical functioning measures. There is also some evidence to suggest that group-based exercise promotes greater patient satisfaction and exercise adherence.

Conclusion: There is preliminary evidence to suggest that the group-based exercise is effective for falls prevention, quality-of-life enhancement, and balance improvements in the older adults comparable with traditional home exercise programs.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control*
  • Aged
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Exercise Therapy / psychology
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Group Processes
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mobility Limitation
  • Postural Balance
  • Quality of Life
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Time Factors