Elderly women are at high risk of hip fractures and costly hip replacement procedures. However, a new September 27th JAMA journal article appearing in Archives of Internal Medicine, states that improvements in gait strength and balance, achieved in the comfort of home can aid in prevention for these high risk patients.

One hundred sixty women were broken into two study groups: 84 to an exercise group, and 76 in a control percentage. For a six month period, once a week from October through March years 1998 through 2001, the women in the exercise group took classes pertaining to balance, leg strength and impact training. Post training observation lasted just over seven years and was funded by the Finnish Ministry of Education, the Finnish Cultural Foundation, the Juho Vainio Foundation, the Miina Sillanpää Foundation, the Research Foundation of Orion Corporation and the Northern Ostrobothnia District Hospital.

Raija Korpelainen, Ph.D., of Oulu Deaconess Institute, Oulu, Finland states:

Falls are responsible for at least 90 percent of all hip fractures. Hip fractures place the greatest demands on resources and have the greatest effect on patients because they are associated with high mortality rates and increased morbidity.

In addition, Korpelainen and colleagues conducted follow-up research of 160 women who participated in a randomized trial aimed at reducing risk factors for fractures in elderly women with osteopenia (a reduction in bone mass, or low levels of bone calcium).

After the exercise period was complete, 17 women in the exercise group were hospital-treated for fractures, and 23 in the control contracted fractures. Five serious hip fractures were recorded in the control, non-training group compared to absolutely zero in the portion that worked on balance and stamina over the four year period.

The study’s authors summarized:

Fractures were proximal in 52.2 percent of the control group and 17.6 percent of the exercise group. Moderate lifelong physical activity decreased the overall risk of having any fractures during the total follow-up period. The exercise group also demonstrated a significant gain compared with the control group in mean leg strength during the trial.

In final statements, Korpelainen concludes:

Thirty months of supervised, mainly home-based exercises followed by voluntary home training had a positive long-term effect on balance and gait in high-risk elderly women. Life-long physical activity was associated with reduced risk of fractures. Furthermore, mortality was significantly lower in the exercise group than in the control group during the extended follow-up period. Regular daily physical activity should be recommended to elderly women with osteopenia.

“Long-term Outcomes of Exercise – Follow-up of a Randomized Trial in Older Women With Osteopenia”
Raija Korpelainen, PhD; Sirkka Keinänen-Kiukaanniemi, MD, PhD; Pentti Nieminen, PhD; Jorma Heikkinen, MD, PhD; Kalervo Väänänen, MD, PhD; Juha Korpelainen, MD, PhD
Arch Intern Med. 2010;170(17):1548-1556. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2010.311

Written by Sy Kraft (B.A.)