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Aging Clin Exp Res. 2008 Jun;20(3):234-41.

Physical function, physical activity and recent falls. Results from the "Invecchiamento e Longevità nel Sirente (ilSIRENTE)" Study.

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Department of Critical Care Medicine and Surgery, Unit of Geriatric Medicine, University of Florence, Florence, Italy.



A fall is a common and traumatic event in the life of older persons. This study aims: 1) to explore the relationship between recent falls and measures of physical function in elders, and 2) to examine the role played by habitual physical activity in the relationship between recent falls and physical function.


We used baseline data from 361 community-dwelling persons aged > or = 80 years (mean age 85.9 yrs) enrolled in the "Invecchiamento e Longevità nel Sirente (ilSIRENTE)" study. Physical performance was assessed using the Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB) and usual gait speed. Muscle strength was measured by hand grip strength. Functional status was assessed by the Basic (ADL) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) scales. Self-reported recent falls over the previous three months were recorded. Analyses of covariance were performed to evaluate the relationship between recent fall events and physical function measures.


Fifty participants (13.9%) reported at least one recent fall. Physically active participants had fewer falls and significantly higher physical function compared with sedentary subjects, regardless of recent falls. Significant interactions for physical activity were found in the relationships of usual gait speed and SPPB with recent fall history (p for interaction terms <0.01). A difference in usual gait speed and SPPB according to history of recent falls was found only in physically active subjects.


Physical performance measures are negatively associated with recent falls in physically active, but not sedentary, participants. Physical activity is associated with better physical function, independently of recent fall history.

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