Background: Falls are a verified cause of morbidity and mortality in adults older than 65 years. Exercise under the direction of a physical therapist has been shown to reduce the risk of falls in older adults; however, it is not clear whether physical therapist–directed group-based exercise could produce similar results.
Purpose: The purpose of this systematic review was to summarize the evidence on the effectiveness of physical therapist–administered group-based exercise when compared with various controls for falls prevention and improvement of quality of life.
Methods: A computerized search of PubMed and CINAHL was performed. An exhaustive hand search was also performed of the references of all full-text articles. Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines were followed for this review. Studies were included if they met the following criteria: (1) comparison of group-based exercise led by a physical therapist to a control group; (2) ambulatory elderly men or women, aged 65 years or older; (3) subjects in the community or institutional setting; (4) the use of 1 or more outcome measures related to functional balance and/or quality of life; (5) randomized controlled or clinical trials; and (6) published in English, between December 1, 2001, and June 7, 2012. The PEDro scale was used to assess the quality of each study included in this review.
Results: The computerized search strategy and hand search revealed 213 potential articles, 10 of which met the inclusion criteria. After assessment with the PEDro scale, 8 of these were considered high-quality studies (score > 6/10). Seven studies compared group-based exercise to a nonexercise control group, while 3 studies compared group-based exercise with a physical therapist–prescribed home exercise program. Outcomes measured include fall rate, balance, physical performance, health-related quality of life, and fear of falling.
Discussion: When group-based exercise was compared with no intervention, group-based exercise was found to be more effective in decreasing fall frequency, increase balance, and improve quality of life. When compared with a physical therapist–prescribed home exercise program, the group-based exercise results were not statistically different but showed improvements in some quality of life and physical functioning measures. There is also some evidence to suggest that group-based exercise promotes greater patient satisfaction and exercise adherence.
Conclusion: There is preliminary evidence to suggest that the group-based exercise is effective for falls prevention, quality-of-life enhancement, and balance improvements in the older adults comparable with traditional home exercise programs