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Step training improves reaction time, gait and balance and reduces falls in older people: a systematic review and meta-analysis
  1. Yoshiro Okubo1,2,
  2. Daniel Schoene3,
  3. Stephen R Lord1,4
  1. 1Falls and Balance Research Group, Neuroscience Research Australia, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
  2. 2The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Tokyo, Japan
  3. 3Institute for Biomedicine of Aging, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg, Nuremberg, Germany
  4. 4School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Professor Stephen R Lord, Falls and Balance Research Group, Neuroscience Research Australia, University of New South Wales, Sydney 2031, Australia; s.lord{at}


Objective To examine the effects of stepping interventions on fall risk factors and fall incidence in older people.

Data source Electronic databases (PubMed, EMBASE, CINAHL, Cochrane, CENTRAL) and reference lists of included articles from inception to March 2015.

Study selection Randomised (RCT) or clinical controlled trials (CCT) of volitional and reactive stepping interventions that included older (minimum age 60) people providing data on falls or fall risk factors.

Results Meta-analyses of seven RCTs (n=660) showed that the stepping interventions significantly reduced the rate of falls (rate ratio=0.48, 95% CI 0.36 to 0.65, p<0.0001, I2=0%) and the proportion of fallers (risk ratio=0.51, 95% CI 0.38 to 0.68, p<0.0001, I2=0%). Subgroup analyses stratified by reactive and volitional stepping interventions revealed a similar efficacy for rate of falls and proportion of fallers. A meta-analysis of two RCTs (n=62) showed that stepping interventions significantly reduced laboratory-induced falls, and meta-analysis findings of up to five RCTs and CCTs (n=36–416) revealed that stepping interventions significantly improved simple and choice stepping reaction time, single leg stance, timed up and go performance (p<0.05), but not measures of strength.

Conclusions The findings indicate that both reactive and volitional stepping interventions reduce falls among older adults by approximately 50%. This clinically significant reduction may be due to improvements in reaction time, gait, balance and balance recovery but not in strength. Further high-quality studies aimed at maximising the effectiveness and feasibility of stepping interventions are required.

Systematic reviews registration number CRD42015017357.

  • Accident
  • Fall
  • Aging/ageing
  • Exercise training
  • Systematic review

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