Injury due to a fall is a major health problem and a leading cause of death among older people worldwide. Older age is a risk factor for falls, and approximately 30% of older people over the age of 65 years fall each year; among those over 75 years old, the fall risk is even higher.

What causes a fall?

The natural ageing process increases the risk of falling.
Older people are more likely to fall because they may have: 

  • balance problems and muscle weakness
  • poor vision
  • a long-term health condition, such as heart disease, dementia or low blood pressure (hypotension), which can lead to dizziness and a brief loss of consciousness.

Doing regular strength exercises and balance exercises can improve strength and balance and reduce the risk of falling. 

Otago background

The Otago Exercise Programme, OEP was developed in New Zealand by A John Campbell and M Clare Robertson and their research team at the University of Otago. This home-based exercise programme has shown to increase balance and strength and decrease fall rates. It is also associated with several other health benefits for older persons.

In its original form, the exercise program comprises individually tailored strength, balance and endurance exercises. The exercises are functional and can be done with or without support. Some examples are; up on toes, back on heel, knee bends, heel to toe stands/walking, standing up from sitting, sitting down slowly and walking in a figure of an eight.


How does it work?

The OEP exercises progress through four different levels of difficulty. Balance exercises progress by using the “hold on” support as the easiest level and no support as the most difficult level.

It is recommended that the exercise be performed three times per week, with additional walks two times per week.

However, the programme has also been shown to have positive effects on health outcomes when performed two times per week. The addition of regular walking has been suggested as a complement to increase physical activity levels. The OEP booklet can be downloaded here.