Exercise improves balance in older people

Clinical question: 
Are exercise interventions effective in improving balance in older people?
Bottom line: 
Exercise has statistically significant positive effects on balance as opposed to usual activity for older people. The interventions that appeared to have the greatest impact involved gait, balance, coordination and functional exercises, muscle strengthening and multiple exercises. Improvements were seen in the ability to stand on one leg, reach forward without overbalancing and walking.
Many of these mainly small studies (the largest had 620 participants) demonstrated a range of methodological weaknesses. In particular there was a lack of standardised measures to determine balance ability across the studies. Moreover, a lack of follow-up of participants makes it hard to determine any long-term effects of the interventions (the longest trials lasted 12 months but most were for only a few weeks or months).
A decrease in ability to maintain balance may be associated with an increased risk of falling. In older adults, falls often lead to injury, loss of independence, associated illness and early death.
Review CD#: 
November, 2007
Authored by: 
Brian R McAvoy