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Dancing, Walking While Carrying Objects Can Improve Balance In Elderly, Review Shows

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It's well known that balance exercises can help elderly people avoid dangerous falls -- but a new Cochrane Review shows just what kinds of exercises seem to be most effective.

Researchers found that the best ways to improve balance "involved exercises that challenged people's balance while they were standing," study researcher Tracey Howe, of Glasgow Caledonian University, said in a statement.

The exercises that were done three times a week for three months seemed to be the most effective, she added. The Telegraph reported that these sorts of activities include dancing and carrying objects while walking.

"What you have to do is combine activities, such as carrying things while walking or dancing which involves using various parts of the body," Howe told The Telegraph. "It is well worth the elderly putting their favorite music on at home and having a little jig."

Surprisingly, plain old walking and riding a bicycle didn't seem to be that effective at reducing falls among the older population, Howe added, though of course there are many other health benefits associated with these activities.

Howe and her colleagues reviewed 94 studies, which included 9,917 people. They reviewed exercises that included Tai Chi and yoga, dance, walking and cycling, vibrating platforms and computerized training programs, as well as exercises that focused on strengthening, balance and coordination.

Last year, a study published in Nursing Administration Quarterly showed that elderly people's balance and gait were improved after participating in a dance therapy program, ScienceDaily reported.

One in three elderly adults will fall each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These falls can cause hip fractures and other traumas -- and could even lead to death.

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