Are participants of balance programs achieving a reduction in falls risk?

Mrs Candice  Oberholster1, Mr  Justin  Offerman1, Miss Lucy  Meaney1, Ms  Ashleigh  Flemming2, Ms  Bernadette  Strawhorn2, Dr Brett  Gordon2

1The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Allied Health (Physiotherapy and Exercise Physiology), Melbourne, Australia, 2Discipline of Exercise Physiology, La Trobe University , Bendigo, Australia


Aim:  Falling is a significant issue, especially amongst older individuals and those with neurological issues. This study aimed to determine if outpatient balance exercise programs reduced participants’ falls risk.

Methods: Individuals referred into one of Royal Melbourne Hospital balance groups volunteered to participate in this non-randomised observational research project. Two land-based exercise groups; high-level (n = 8), low-level (n = 11) or water-based Ai Chi (n = 5) were completed. Land-based groups differed only in starting physical capacity and subsequently pace/difficulty of exercises. Falls risk was assessed by a timed-up and go (TUG) test and 5 times sit-to-stand (5xSTS). The modified falls efficacy scale (MFES) was completed before and after the 10-week accredited exercise physiologist led program.

Results: The 24 participants were on average 72 ± 11 years old, age was not different between groups (p = 0.39). On referral, high-level completed the TUG 10.6 ± 2.8 sec faster than low-level (p < 0.02), while Ai Chi was not different high-level or low-level (p > 0.05). 5xSTS or MFES was not different between groups (p > 0.05). The TUG improved by 1.4 ± 0.5 sec (p = 0.02) and 5xSTS improved by 2.9 ± 0.8 sec (p = 0.02), with no between group differences (p > 0.05). MFES was unchanged (p > 0.05).

Significance of findings to allied health: A 10-week balance exercise program reduces falls risk by improving physical balance.  This does not translate into reduced fear.


Candice is an Exercise Physiologist working at The Royal Melbourne Hospital in its outpatient Community Therapy Service. She has been working with Falls and Balance programs for over 6 years. Recent interest include improving referral pathways and the establishment of ongoing easily accessible and affordable community balance programs.