Harvard Women's Health Watch

Incorporating balance into everyday life prevents falls

In the journals

A study published online in BMJ finds you don't need to take fitness classes to improve your balance. Incorporating balance and strength activities into your daily routine—such as by standing on one leg while you cook dinner—could be enough to reduce your risk of a fall.

Australian researchers tested the effects of a program called Lifestyle integrated Functional Exercise (LiFE) on a group of 317 people, ages 70 and older, who had fallen in the previous year. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: the LiFE program, a structured exercise and strengthening program, or a control "sham" program of gentle exercises. Those who tried the LiFE approach incorporated balance and strength movements throughout their day—for example, squatting instead of bending over to close a drawer, or walking sideways while carrying groceries from the car to the house. At the end of one year, the LiFE group had experienced 31% fewer falls than the two other groups—a total of 172 falls, compared with 193 in the structured exercise group and 224 in the control group. People were also more likely to stick with the LiFE program than with the other two programs. To incorporate balance exercises into your daily routine, try standing on one leg while talking on the phone or sitting down in a chair without using your hands.

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