Preventing Falls in Seniors with the Otago Exercise Program

Preventing falls in older adults can save them from significant health consequences. A study revealed that more than 1 in 4 adults over 65 years of age had a fall in 2014. From those falls, 27,000 adults died because of their falls and 2.8 million were treated in emergency room departments for fall-related injuries.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some conditions that are more likely to cause older adults to fall include lower body weakness, difficulties with walking and balance, as well as foot pain or poor footwear. 

The Otago Exercise Program was developed in New Zealand and has been shown to reduce falls between 35-40% for frail older adults. Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine and Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention has shown statistically significant improvement in as little as 8 weeks.

The Otago Exercise Program can be found in the PT-Helper exercise library inside the Geriatric category. Some exercises from the program are shown below:

  • Ankle Pumps – While sitting or lying down, pump your ankles up and down.


  • Seated Marches – While seated in a chair, lift one knee up and return it to the ground. Lift the other knee up and return it to the ground. Repeat.


  • Hamstring Curls with Support – Standing with good posture in front of a solid table, bench or kitchen sink. Look straight ahead. Rest your hands on the bench. Start with your legs together. Lift one heel up bringing your foot towards your bottom. Then bring it back down. Repeat. (If you lose your balance, grasp the table, bench or kitchen sink to regain your balance.)

The Otago Exercise Program is meant to be delivered in the home and doesn’t need any special equipment to complete.

Reminder: Please consult your physician or physical therapist before engaging in any physical activity and stop if you experience pain or discomfort.

Start your Free 30-day Trial of the PT-Helper CONNECT service for physical therapists and other wellness professional, to prescribe Home Exercise Programs.

Download the PT-Helper mobile app for patients and exercise enthusiasts to create your exercise program.

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