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Practicing Moving to Music May Help Elderly Avoid Falls

TUESDAY, Nov. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Exercising to music reduces the risk of falls among elderly people, researchers have found.

The study included 134 Swiss adults, mostly women, average age 75.5 years, who were at increased risk of falling. They were assigned to either an intervention group that did a music-based multitask exercise program or a control group that did normal exercises. After the first six months, the participants switched groups for the next six months.

The intervention program used an instructor-led one-hour weekly exercise program that featured multitask activities, including movements that were designed to challenge balance and become increasingly difficult over time. These exercises included walking in time to piano music and responding to changes in the music's rhythm.

People in the intervention program showed greater improvement in balance and had 24 falls (a rate of 0.7 falls per person per year), compared with 54 falls in the control program (a rate of 1.6 falls per person per year), the investigators found.

The intervention program increased participants' walking speed and stride length while performing one task at a time, and increased their stride length and decreased their stride length variability while performing multiple tasks at the same time.

This improvement in gait (manner or style of walking) and balance helped reduce the risk of falls, the researchers explained.

"Our findings suggest that this program may be useful for fall prevention and rehabilitation in community-based settings such as senior centers," Dr. Andrea Trombetti, of University Hospitals and Faculty of Medicine of Geneva, and colleagues wrote in their report, which was released online Nov. 22 in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine before publication in an upcoming print issue of the journal.

The same journal issue also includes the results of an Australian study that found that a personalized multimedia education program does not appear to reduce the risk of falls among older hospital patients.

The program, which included written materials, videos and one-on-one follow-up with a trained professional, offered information about the frequency and causes of falls. It also encouraged patients to think about their own fall risks, identify problem areas, and develop fall prevention goals and strategies.

But the researchers didn't find much difference in the rate of falls between the intervention group and a control group -- 7.6 versus 9.3 falls per 1,000 days per patient.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about falls and older adults.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news releases, Nov. 22, 2010

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