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JFSF Vol 3, No 2, June 2018, p.85-104

doi: 10.22540/JFSF-03-085


Review Article

Which strength and balance activities are safe and efficacious for individuals with specific challenges (osteoporosis, vertebral fractures, frailty, dementia)?: A Narrative review

Dawn A. Skelton, Alexandra Mavroeidi

  • School of Health and Life Sciences, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK

Keywords: Strength, Balance, Frailty, Falls, Adverse Events


Physical activity guidelines advocate the inclusion of strength and balance activities, twice a week, for adults and older adults, but with caveat that in some individuals there will be certain movements and activities that could lead to adverse events. This scoping review summarizes the evidence about how safe and efficacious these activities are in older adults with specific challenges that might make them more prone to injury (e.g. having recently fractured or at risk of fracture (osteoporosis) or those who are frail or who have cognitive impairment). The review identified that for prevention of falls in people with a falls history and/or frailer older adults, structured exercise programmes that incorporate progressive resistance training (PRT) with increasing balance challenges over time are safe and effective if performed regularly, with supervision and support, over at least 6 months. Some minor adverse effects mainly transient musculoskeletal pain) have been reported. For those with a higher risk of falls and fractures (very poor balance, vertebral fractures), supervised structured exercise programmes are most appropriate. People with diagnosed osteoporosis should be as active as possible and only avoid activities with a high risk of falls if they are naive to those activities. For those in transition to frailty who have poor strength and balance, exercises that are known to help maintain strength and balance (such as Tai Chi) are effective in preventing a decline in falls risk. For the very frail older adult, supervised structured exercise that has PRT, balance training and some endurance work, supervised and progressed by a trained person are advocated.