The frequency and serious consequences of falls in older people led the New Zealand Falls Prevention Research Group to develop test programmes specifically designed to prevent falls.

The Otago Exercise Programme is a muscle strengthening and balance-retraining programme.  The rationale behind this is that muscle strength; flexibility, balance and reaction time are risk factors for falls and considered the most readily modified.

Both leg muscle strength and balance must be maintained above the threshold level required to achieve stability.  Even people in their 90s can improve their strength and balance sufficiently to avoid falls.

Other potential benefits of moderate physical activity include lower death rates and improved physical health, physical function, health-related quality of life, sleep and sense of well-being.

Four trials were carried out over a minimum of a twelve month period.  The results of the four trials were combined to reveal the overall results which were:

  • 35% reduction in the number of falls
  • 35% reduction in the number of fall related injuries

The trials highlighted the fact that the programme prevented the most falls and injuries in those aged 80 and older who had fallen in the previous year.

The Otago Exercise Programme is a safe, effective, practical and low-cost falls prevention strategy from which older people can benefit from immediately.

Statistics from Otago Exercise Programme

Video: An example of an Otago class