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Am J Prev Med. 2010 Jul;39(1):15-24. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2010.03.013.

Falls among adults: the association of cardiorespiratory fitness and physical activity with walking-related falls.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261, USA.



Falls are a major cause of deaths, hospitalizations, and emergency room visits in the U.S., but circumstances surrounding falls are not well described. Among the elderly, balance and gait disorders and muscle weakness are associated with increased risk for falling, but the relationship of cardiorespiratory fitness and physical activity with falls is unclear.


This purpose of this study is to describe characteristics of falls among adults and assess the association of cardiorespiratory fitness and physical activity with walking-related falls.


Data on participants enrolled in the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study (ACLS) from 1970 through 1989 who responded to questions on falls on the 1990 follow-up survey were analyzed in 2008-2009. The percentage of participants reporting at least one fall during the year before the follow-up survey was calculated and the activities at the time of falling were described. The relative risk and 95% CIs for the association of baseline fitness and physical activity with walking-related falls were calculated and logistic regression models for walking-related falls were developed.


Of 10,615 participants aged 20-87 years, 20% (95% CI=19%, 21%) reported falling during the past year. Of those falling, 54% (95% CI=52%, 56%) fell during sports or exercise; 15% (95% CI=14%,17%) while walking; and 4% (95% CI=3%, 5%) from a stool or ladder. People aged >or=65 years were no more likely than younger people to report falling in general, but they were more likely than people aged <45 years to report falling while walking (RR=1.9, 95% CI=1.2, 3.0 for men; RR=2.2, 95% CI=1.3, 3.9 for women). Men with a low level of fitness were more likely to fall while walking than men who were highly fit (RR=2.2, 95% CI=1.5, 3.3). In the multivariate analysis, walking-related falls were associated with low levels of fitness (AOR=1.8, 95% CI=1.1, 2.8) and with physical inactivity (AOR=1.7, 95% CI=1.1, 2.7) in men but not in women.


Falls are common throughout adulthood but activities at time of falls differ by age. Low fitness levels and physical inactivity may increase risk for walking-related falls.

Copyright 2010 American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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