Effects of exercise on physical functioning, bone strength and fall risk among older women

The study investigated the effects of exercise on the physical performance and functioning, bone strength, quality of life and risk of falling among elderly women. The project included an exercise section and follow-up of the participants one year and five years after the study. Randomized controlled trial.


Good functional ability is important to older people because a reduced level of functional ability predisposes them to falling and fall-related injuries. It also limits their social circles, makes it difficult for them to live at home independently and may lead to institutional care.

Exercise is essential in maintaining and improving one's functional ability. Exercise is also essential in the prevention of falls and fall-related injuries such as fractures. Exercise can affect several risk factors at the same time for example by improving balance and muscle strength, strengthening bones and reducing the fear of falling.

Therefore it is necessary to conduct versatile studies to investigate how different exercise programs can be implemented and how useful they are in the short and long term.


The study investigated the immediate effects of strength and balance/jump training on muscle performance, balance, bone mass, bone geometry, quality of life and fear of falling among women over the age of 70.

In addition, the study investigated the permanence of the effects one year after the end of training.

A five-year follow-up study was conducted to assess the long-term effects of the exercise intervention on the women's functional ability, quality of life, falls and fall-induced injuries.


The study was a randomized, controlled study. A total of 149 Tampere-based women aged between 70 and 78 were randomly assigned to four groups:

1) resistance training group
2) balance/jumping training group
3) combined resistance and balance/jumping training group
4) control group.

The training groups took part in supervised, progressively advancing training three times a week for a period of 12 months. The control group members were asked to maintain their pre-study level of physical activity.

The following aspects were tested at the beginning of the study and after one and two years:

  • balance and agility
  • hand-eye reaction time
  • muscle performance
  • bone mass using a bone densitometer
  • bone geometry using bone tomography

The following aspects were investigated using questionnaires:

  • health
  • quality of life
  • fear of falling
  • physical activity during the study
  • possible falls
  • fall-induced injuries.

The results of the study have been analysed and reported.

5-year follow-up study

A five-year follow-up study (KAAMU5) was started in order to assess the long-term effects of exercise among elderly women and it was carried out in two parts.

The first part assessed the participants' health, functional ability, quality of life and fear of falling with the help of a questionnaire and interview. 83% of the women who took part in the intervention participated in the follow-up interview.

The second part of the study investigated the fall-induced injuries that required a health care contact with the help of a register-based study for a period of five years following the end of the intervention (n=145, 97%). The analysis and reporting of the results has begun.

Utilization of results

The main results of the study have been reported and the results of the five-year follow-up study will be reported through international scientific articles. In addition, the research material has been utilized in national scientific articles that examine indicators for quality of life and fear of falling.

The research project has been used as the basis for various theses and for Saija Karinkanta's (PhD) doctoral dissertation entitled To Keep Fit and Function. Effects of three exercise programs on multiple risk factors for falls and related fractures in home-dwelling older women.

The results have also been utilized in the following projects:

  • national bone exercise recommendations
  • physical therapy recommendations for the prevention of falls
  • training for health care, social services and exercise specialists
  • planning of new research projects at the UKK Institute.






Saija Karinkanta, Researher



For publications (international and Finnish) of this research see the Finnish description.
To find the list of publications (Julkaisuja), scroll the page down.

Last Modified: 27.11.2014


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