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Medicina dello Sport 2021 June;74(2):313-26

DOI: 10.23736/S0025-7826.21.03838-2


language: English, Italian

Association between physical activity, functional fitness and fall risk in the elderly: a cross-sectional population-based study from the Oporto region

Paulo C. CARMO 1, 2, 3 , Adjane P. CESAR 3, Rubim S. SANTOS 1, Joana M. CARVALHO 3

1 School of Medicine, Polytechnic Institute of Porto, Porto, Portugal; 2 Service of Otorhinolaryngology, Hospital of Vila Nova de Gaia, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal; 3 Faculty of Sports, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal


BACKGROUND: Falls among the elderly are important clinical and health problems being one of the major causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Its high incidence and functional and social repercussions cause a significant financial burden on older adults, health systems and communities. According to different methodologies, the relationship between fall risk, physical activity and physical fitness found some inconsistent results. This study aims to examine the association between objective physical activity (PA) levels, fall risk (FR) and different components of functional fitness (FF) creating an appropriate model to explain variability in fall risk.
METHODS: One hundred and seventy elderly adults (72.34±6.70 years old, 124 female), completed a Functional-Fitness-Test (FFT) and a Performance-Orientated-Mobility-Assessment (POMA). Ambulatory-PA was assessed by 7-day accelerometry. Pearson’s correlation was used to verify association between FR, PA and FF. Analyses were adjusted either for gender, age, or both. Inferential stepwise multiple linear regression (MLR) was used to investigate the impact of PA and components of FF on FR.
RESULTS: MLR Showed that FR variability was mainly explained by motor agility (46.0%) and also by lower-body strength (14.1%) independently, and 49% when associated. Physical activity and also age were excluded from the models. MLR analysis by gender, only motor agility explains fall risk variability, more in female (45.0%) than in male (23.6%).
CONCLUSIONS: The authors concluded that low motor agility and lower-body strength may increase fall risk. However, further evidence from a prospective study is required to establish directions of causality between physical activity behavior and risk of falls.

KEY WORDS: Aging; Motor activity; Physical fitness; Postural balance; Accidental falls

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