Research: Bicycling reduces fall risk on older adults by improving balance and leg strength among older adults - Journal of Environment and Public Health

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Falls in older people represent a significant health burden. One-third of adults aged over 65 years fall at least once each year [1]. Falls can result in injuries (e.g., fractures), loss of confidence, and restriction of physical activity [2]. Physiological risk factors have been found to be associated with greater risk of falling, include gait instability, leg weakness, and poor balance [3].

The deterioration of balance with age has been well documented [4], and physical activities that increase balance and strength are recommended for falls prevention for older adults [5]. A recent meta-analysis found that the most effective physical interventions for falls prevention involve a challenge to balance [6]. . . .

Riding a bicycle is an example of an increasingly popular physical activity for older adults; in Australia, increasing numbers of older adults cycled for recreation and transport in the past decade [7, 13]. Cycling is a healthy form of physical activity [14] and a non-weight bearing activity that is less stressful on the body than jogging or other running sports. A recent systematic review found a consistent positive relationship between cycling and cardiorespiratory fitness, functional abilities, and disease risk factor profiles [15]. Several longitudinal epidemiological studies have shown significant risk reduction for all-cause and cancer mortality and for cardiovascular disease, colon and breast cancer, and obesity morbidity in middle-aged and elderly men and women [15]. Cycling may also have other benefits for older people, such as providing opportunities for recreation and socialising, and as an affordable form of transport.

There are risks associated with cycling, especially traumatic injuries. However, a recent analysis has compared the risks and benefits of shifting from a car to bicycle commuting in urban settings and estimated that the life expectancy gained due to increased physical activity (3–14 months gained) was far greater than the life expectancy lost due to increased air pollution (0.8–40 days lost) and traffic injury (5–9 days lost) [16]. . . .

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