Linking the Risk of Falls & Cycling in Older Adults

People who keep cycling into their later years are at lower risk of the kinds of falls that plague older folk.

A third of over-65s take a tumble each year, and about a quarter of those who break their hip this way die within a year.

Injuries aside, the fear of a repeat fall can limit mobility.

Chris Rissel at the University of Sydney and his colleagues wondered whether cycling would help by improving balance and leg strength, key preventative factors for a fall.

They compared 79 people aged 65 or up who still regularly rode, with 28 others who had stopped when they were younger. All were living in the Netherlands.

The cyclists did better in strength and balance tests, which is expected to translate to fewer falls (Harvey et al., 2018).

However, the research could not tease out whether this effect was down to cycling per se or some trait common to those who chose to cycle in later life.

One way to determine this would be to take a group of non-cyclists and assign half to bike training to see if the same differences emerge, a study that Rissel hopes to do.

References

Harvey, S., Rissel, C. & Pijnappels, M. (2018) Associations Between Bicycling and Reduced Fall-Related Physical Performance in Older Adults. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity. 26(3), pp. 514-519. https://doi.org/10.1123/japa.2017-0243.

New Scientist. (2018) Keep Riding for a Sure-footed Future. New Scientist. 03 March 2018, pp.20.

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