A high incidence of falls is seen in people with intellectual disabilities (ID), along with poor balance, strength, muscular endurance, and slow gait speed, which are well-established risk factors for falls in the general population. The aim of this study was to assess the predictive value of these physical fitness components for falls in 724 older adults with borderline to profound ID (≥ 50 years). Physical fitness was assessed at baseline and data on falls was collected at baseline and after three years. Gait speed was lowest in participants who fell three times or more at follow-up. Gait speed was the only physical fitness component that significantly predicted falls, but did not remain significant after correcting for confounders. Falls at baseline and not having Down syndrome were significant predictors for falls. Extremely low physical fitness levels of older adults with ID, possible strategies to compensate for these low levels, and the finding that falls did not increase with age may explain the limited predictive value of physical fitness found in this study.
Keywords: Falls; Intellectual disabilities; Older adults; Physical fitness; Risk factors.
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