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Prospective association between physical activity and falls in community-dwelling older women
  1. K C Heesch1,
  2. J E Byles2,
  3. W J Brown1
  1. 1
    The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
  2. 2
    The University of Newcastle and the Hunter Medical Research Institute, Newcastle, Australia
  1. Dr K C Heesch, Blair Drive, School of Human Movement Studies, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia; kheesch{at}


Objective: To explore associations between physical activity and the risk of falls and fractured bones in community-dwelling older women.

Design, setting and participants: A prospective observational survey with three and six-year follow-ups. The sample included 8188 healthy, community-dwelling women, aged 70–75 years in 1996, who completed surveys as participants in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health. Women who reported a recent serious injury from falling were excluded. Outcomes were reports of a fall to the ground, injury from a fall, and a fractured bone in 1999 and 2002. The main predictor variable was physical activity level in 1996, categorised on the basis of weekly frequency as none/very low, low, moderate, high and very high. Covariates were demographic and health-related variables. Logistic regression models were computed separately for each outcome in 1999 and 2002.

Main results: In multivariable models, very high physical activity was associated with a decreased risk of reporting a fall in 1999 (odds ratio (OR) 0.67; 95% CI 0.47 to 0.95) and in 2002 (OR 0.64; 95% CI 0.43 to 0.96). High/very high physical activity was associated with a decreased risk of a fractured bone in 2002 (OR 0.53; 95% CI 0.34 to 0.83). No significant association was found between physical activity and injury from a fall.

Conclusions: The results suggest that at least daily moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity is required for the primary prevention of falls to the ground and fractured bones in women aged 70–75 years.

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  • Funding: Funding for the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health was provided by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. KCH was supported by a NHMRC programme grant (Owen, Bauman and Brown; no 301200) in Physical Activity and Health at the University of Queensland, School of Human Movement Studies.

  • Competing interests: None.

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