Exercise-Based Fall Prevention in the Elderly: What About Agility?

Sports Med. 2016 Feb;46(2):143-9. doi: 10.1007/s40279-015-0389-5.


Annually, one in three seniors aged over 65 years fall. Balance and strength training can reduce neuromuscular fall risk factors and fall rates. Besides conventional balance and strength training, explosive or high-velocity strength training, eccentric exercises, perturbation-based balance training, trunk strength, and trunk control have also been emphasized. In contrast, aerobic exercise has to date not been included in fall-prevention studies. However, well-developed endurance capacity might attenuate fatigue-induced declines in postural control in sports-related or general activities of daily living. Physical performance indices, such as balance, strength, and endurance, are generally addressed independently in exercise guidelines. This approach seems time consuming and may impede integrative training of sensorimotor, neuromuscular, and cardiocirculatory functions required to deal with balance-threatening situations in the elderly. An agility-based conceptual training framework comprising perception and decision making (e.g., visual scanning, pattern recognition, anticipation) and changes of direction (e.g., sudden starts, stops and turns; reactive control; concentric and eccentric contractions) might enable an integrative neuromuscular, cardiocirculatory, and cognitive training. The present paper aims to provide a scientific sketch of how to build such an integrated modular training approach, allowing adaptation of intensity, complexity, and cognitive challenge of the agility tasks to the participant's capacity. Subsequent research should address the (1) link between agility and fall risk factors as well as fall rates, (2) benefit-risk ratios of the proposed approach, (3) psychosocial aspects of agility training (e.g., motivation), and (4) logistical requirements (e.g., equipment needed).

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control*
  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Physical Conditioning, Human / methods*
  • Postural Balance*
  • Resistance Training
  • Risk Factors