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A new study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has confirmed that an Australian e-health exercise program can help prevent falls in older people by up to 20%.

The StandingTall app, developed by Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) and their Falls, Balance and Injury Research Centre, seeks to address the rate of falls in older people through a self-managed exercise program – there are more than 6,000 individual  exercises contained within the app – tailored in difficulty to the needs of the user.

The app is designed to be both “scalable and easily incorporated into clinical practice”, with healthcare professionals able to “remotely set up, monitor and tailor the program for their patients,” while concurrently allowing the user “full autonomy” as they use the app.

The BMJ study, led by Professor Kim Delbaere, Senior Principal Research Scientist at the Falls, Balances and Injury Research Centre, involved a two-year trial of 503 senior Australians aged 70 years and older.

It found that while over a 12-month period there wasn’t a “statistically significant” effect on both the rate of falls and the number of injurious falls, there was a significant reduction over the two-year period of the study, with a 20% reduction in the number of people who experienced an “injurious fall”.

According to Professor Delbaere, the results suggest that e-health initiatives like StandingTall may be of benefit to senior Australians going forward.

“For over three decades, falls and fall-related injuries have persistently been a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in older people,” Professor Delbaere said.

“Research has shown that balance exercise programs are among the most effective strategies to prevent falls in older people. This is the first trial to provide evidence that an unsupervised, home-based exercise program using technology designed to improve balance can prevent falls in older community-dwelling people.”

Falls in older people are common: One-third of people over 65 years of age experience a major fall each year, with “half of those falling again in the same year,” according to NeuRA, making falls the leading cause of hospitalisation among older people.

NeuRA, a Sydney-based research centre formed in 1993 and focused on the prevention, treatment and cure of “brain and nervous system diseases, disorders and injuries through medical research”, established the Falls, Balance and Injury Research Centre, led by Professor Stephen Lord, in 2014.

The full BMJ study can be found here, while more information about NeuRA can be found at their website.