Exercise and vitamin D supplements may help prevent injurious falls in older adults, a randomized trial found.
Finnish researchers recruited 409 women ages 70 to 80 who were living at home. They randomly assigned them to one of four groups: a placebo without exercise, daily vitamin D supplements without exercise, placebo with exercise, and vitamin D supplements with exercise. The exercises, done regularly over two years, concentrated on balance, weight bearing, strength and agility. The study is online at JAMA Internal Medicine.
Neither vitamin D supplements nor exercise reduced the number of falls. But compared with the placebo without exercise group, those who took vitamin D alone were 16 percent less likely to be injured in a fall; the placebo and exercise group were 54 percent less likely to be injured; and those who exercised and took supplements were 62 percent less likely to be hurt.
The authors suggest that physical conditioning and vitamin D increase bone density, which could help prevent injury.
“It’s important to develop muscle power, because without muscle power, you can’t have good balance,” said the lead author, Kirsti Uusi-Rasi, a senior researcher at the UKK Institute for Health Promotion Research. As for vitamin D supplements, she said, “If you have low levels, supplements are important, but if you have sufficient levels, more is not better.”
By Nicholas Bakalar