Lack of Fitness, Inactivity Linked to Walking Falls

Fitness and physical activity may protect against walking-related falls, especially in men
By Eric Metcalf
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, June 18 (HealthDay News) -- Poor physical fitness and physical inactivity may increase the risk of falls while walking, particularly in men, according to research published in the July issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Kristen J. Mertz, M.D., of the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues analyzed data from 10,615 participants -- aged 20 to 87 -- participating in a longitudinal study who answered questions about falls on an 1990 survey.

The researchers found that 20 percent reported falling in the previous year; of these, 15 percent fell while walking. Men and women with a low level of fitness were more likely to fall while walking than their counterparts who were highly fit (relative risks, 2.2 in men and 2.0 in women). In multivariate analysis, falls related to walking were associated with low fitness levels (adjusted odds ratio, 1.8) and physical inactivity (adjusted odds ratio, 1.7) in men but not women.

"The current study is the first study we know of to show that a low level of cardiorespiratory fitness, as measured by a maximal exercise test, is associated with falling while walking," the authors write. "For men and to some degree women, fitness and physical activity appear to protect against walking-related falls. Fitness and physical activity convey many health benefits, such as decreased risk for heart disease, stroke, some cancer, and diabetes; protecting against walking-related falls may be another of their many benefits."

The study was supported in part by a grant from The Coca-Cola Company.

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