Preventing Falls: The Otago Exercise Program

The Otago Exercise Program is a simple to complete program with strong evidence for decreasing falls in elderly people living in the community. Shown to decrease falls by 35%, the program has strong evidence to support its effect.

According to the study, the following groups of people are at higher risk of falls:

  • Aged 80+
  • Previous falls
  • Female
  • Recent illness or surgery
  • Reduced strength or balance


So what’s involved in the program?

This evidence based program targets leg muscle weakness, difficulty walking and balance systems which are some of the most common risk factors for falling.

  1. Strength exercises: 3 x per week
  2. Balance exercises: 3 x per week
  3. Walking: 2 x per week

Strength exercises focus on major leg muscles required for important movements like walking and standing. Physiotherapists are experts identifying deficiencies and selecting the right exercises to address identified problems. Importantly, they will also teach you how to do the exercises properly for maximum benefits.

Balance exercises are designed to retrain people in maintaining balance. Selected exercises will improve your ability to balance and your ability to recover your balance when something goes wrong. Selection of appropriate exercises and advice on performing challenging exercises safely by a physiotherapist is important.

As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. You’re never too old for this adage! Regular walking helps you to regain endurance and challenge your body to improve. Walking is the simplest part of the program to do safely and effectively, so some tips are provided below for getting started.


Getting Started With Walking

Now you know about the program, it’s time to get started with some walking.

The aim is to walk for 30 minutes two days each week. This needs to become a habit! Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Walk at a comfortable pace.
  • Use your usual walker or stick if you have one.
  • If someone normally walks with you for safety, walk with them.
  • If you can’t walk 30 minutes continuously, break it down into multiple shorter walks. Try 3 lots of 10 minutes or 2 lots of 15 minutes.
  • Push yourself! It should be a challenge but not exhausting.


Next steps

Talk to our team about seeing one of our exceptional physiotherapists for tailored strength and balance exercises. We can see you in the comfort of your home, at our Cheltenham clinic or in a Residential Care facility. Call us on 9583 1364 or submit an enquiry to find out more.