April in Focus: World Health Day – 7 April 2012
Every year, World Health Day is celebrated on 7 April to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1948. Each year a theme is selected for World Health Day that highlights a priority area of concern.
The topic of World Health Day in 2012 is Ageing and health with the theme “Good health adds life to years”. The focus is how good health throughout life can help older men and women lead full and productive lives and be a resource for their families and communities. Ageing concerns each and every one of us – whether young or old, male or female, rich or poor – no matter where we live.
So how can exercise help healthy ageing? Exercise can prevent falls in older people.
At least one-third of community-living Australians aged 65 years and over fall every year, with even higher rates for people in aged-care facilities and hospitals.
Falls can result in permanent disability, restriction of activity, loss of confidence and fear of falling, all of which reduce quality of life and independence. The economic cost of fall-related injuries is estimated at more than double that of injuries in car accidents (1).
High-quality studies show that exercise prevents falls in older people (2), by decreasing the key risk factors such as poor balance, slow reaction time and muscle weakness.
What type of exercise is best?
The best exercise programs to reduce fall rates should include balance training, be performed regularly, be of sufficient duration (at least 2 hours per week) and be ongoing (2). Good balance exercises involve controlled body movements while standing with the feet close together (or standing on one leg), with as little arm support as possible.
(1) Tinetti ME, Williams CS. Falls, injuries due to falls, and the risk of admission to a nursing home. N Engl J Med 1997; 337(18): 1279–84.
(2) Sherrington C, Whitney JC, Lord SR et al. Effective exercise for the prevention of falls: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Am Geriatr Soc 2008; 56(12): 2234– 43.