FYI Daily

Exercise and Vitamin D May Help Prevent Falls

Last updated:

May 30, 2012

Want to help a loved one age in place? Try signing him or her up for an exercise program and adding a multivitamin to the daily regimen.

According to a new report from the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, those two interventions are the ones most likely to prevent falls. Based on other studies, the Task Force found that exercise or physical therapy reduces fall risk by about 13 percent, and vitamin D supplementation reduces fall risk by about 17 percent.

On the other hand, interventions like hip protectors, protein supplements, vision modification, and home hazard modification (like replacing throw rugs with non-slip surfaces) didn't seem to make a difference in the fall rate.

A multifactorial risk assessment done in a doctor's office is somewhere in the middle -- it may reduce fall risk by "a small amount," but not as much as vitamin D and exercise.

The Task Force wasn't totally clear on what type of exercise is best, though Task Force member Albert L. Siu told WebMD that balance exercise (like tai chi), strength and resistance exercise, and general exercise may all be beneficial.

The most important part of any exercise program? The person's gotta enjoy it.

"Exercise recommendations need to be customized to individual patients, especially since adherence is such an important component," Siu said. "If you prescribe an exercise that a patient won't do, there is no benefit."

What about how much vitamin D to take? According to experts, 800 IU of vitamin D per day is probably safe for people 65 and up. Geriatric physician Gisele Wolf-Klein told WebMD that most multivitamins have that much vitamin D in them, so check the vitamin bottle before buying special vitamin D supplements.

As usual, it's probably smart to talk to a doctor about any new exercise program or vitamin supplement.