Older women with osteoporosis are at a higher risk of fracture resulting from a fall due to their decreased bone mineral density (BMD). While osteoporosis drugs may help increase BMD, simply improving bone mineral density may not reduce the incidence of falls.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, fall risk can be reduced by addressing these 4 factors: vision, medication, home and community environment, and physical activity. Poor balance and leg strength are important risk factors for falls.

Researchers in Brazil investigated the effects of an 18-week strength and balance training program in sedentary, post-menopausal women with osteoporosis between 55 and 75 years old. 100 women participating in a conventional drug treatment for osteoporosis were randomly assigned to either an experimental exercise group or a sedentary control group.

Both groups were examined at baseline and after the 18-week program for quality of life, balance, quadriceps strength, and functional mobility. The incidence of falls was also assessed as part of a 24-week follow-up.

The 50 women in the exercise group performed quadriceps muscle training using cuff weights and proprioceptive training using balance boards. Subjects attended an average of 82% of the training sessions.

After the program the exercise group demonstrated significant improvements in all variables. In addition, the exercise group had significantly fewer falls than the control group. In fact, the authors noted that 4 of the 6 falls that occurred in the control group required hospitalization, while only 1 of the  falls in the exercise group resulted in slight injury.

The authors concluded that the program was successful in providing an easy-to-follow and reproducible exercise routine following American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines, which was substantiated by the 82% compliance rate. In addition, this study had a strong design and large sample size. Although the authors did not report a power analysis to determine the number of subjects needed to detect statistically significant differences, it’s clear that adding a simple exercise program with readily available inexpensive equipment such as Thera-Band balance boards and ankle/wrist weights can be beneficial to osteoporotic women undergoing drug therapy.

REFERENCE: Teixeira LE, et al. Progressive load training for the quadriceps muscle associated with proprioception exercises for the prevention of falls in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis: a randomized controlled trial. Osteoporos Int. 2010 Apr;21(4):589-96.

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