Could exercise prevent falls among people with sight loss?

Post date: 
Thursday, 18 June 2015

Older people with visual impairments are taking part in a major study looking at how exercise can help to prevent falls.

The study, which is funded by National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), is being led by Northumbria University in collaboration with Newcastle, Manchester and Glasgow Caledonian Universities as well as several charitable organisations.
 
Researchers will work with older people with sight loss to develop an exercise programme using strength and balance techniques to help to prevent falls. The study will be based in Newcastle and Glasgow using participants aged over 60 who attend a low vision clinic or are a member of a society for visually impaired people.
 
Falls are the most prominent reason for admission to hospital for accidental injury and cost the NHS billions  Older people with poor vision are at a much higher risk of falling. 
 
Nicola Adams, a Professor of Rehabilitation at Northumbria University, explained: “Fear of falling is a real and frightening prospect for older people, particularly those with poor vision. However, many falls are preventable.
 
“Research has shown that following a fall, older people restrict their activities rather than suffer the consequences, both physical and psychological, that they associate with a fall. This can lead to a vicious spiral of decline in their strength, mobility and balance meaning they are actually at increased risk of falling in future.
 
“Participation in exercise can help to build confidence, as well as ensuring that people are fitter and healthier and this can, in turn, help to prevent falls.
 
Those taking part will be assessed by a researcher who will check their strength, balance and flexibility before they are assigned to one of two groups. The first cohort will undertake specially designed exercises for 12 weeks in a weekly hour-long group class, while the others will be encouraged to continue with their usual activities. They will be encouraged to keep diaries of their falls and will be contacted weekly from the start of the study to six months after its completion.
 
Niall McMurty, Project Manager, RNIB, said: “People with sight loss are at a high risk of falls and injuries resulting from falls can set people back considerably. Anything we can do that can help to improve confidence, balance and physical fitness will be a real help.”
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