Teaching older people martial arts will reduce injury when they fall.
Training older people in martial arts could cut their chances of suffering broken bones or fractures when they fall, according to experts. Teaching the elderly how to fall properly to minimise damage could yield significant benefits, they believe.
The training could be particularly useful to those suffering from osteoporosis, also known as brittle bone disease, who are most at risk.
Many martial arts advise on the correct art of falling.
This can include how to roll and how to protect the head and other parts of the body.
New research, published in the journal BMC Research Notes, suggests that older people can be successfully trained in the best way to fall through martial arts.
Brenda Groen, who led the study, said: “Since martial arts techniques reduce hip impact forces and can be learned by older persons, martial arts fall training may prevent hip fractures among persons with osteoporosis”.
She added: “For obvious safety reasons, this could not be directly assessed using persons with osteoporosis.
“Therefore, we measured the hip impact forces during the martial arts fall exercises in a group of young adults.
“Based on our results, however, we believe that fall training would be safe for persons with osteoporosis if they wear hip protectors during the training, perform fall exercises on a thick mattress, and avoid forward fall exercises from a standing position”.
Around 650,000 people over 60 are taken to Accident and Emergency departments after falling every year.
Doctors warn that half of all elderly women will suffer some form of fracture, in part because of the effects of osteoporosis.
As well as a loss of mobility, falls can lead to isolation and in some cases even trigger depression or force older people to go into long-term residential care.
An estimated three million people in Britain have osteoporosis, and the condition causes around 230,000 fractures every year.
More common in old age, it develops as the body’s ability to repair bone becomes diminished.
About 1 in 3 women over the age of 50, and 1 in 12 men, are thought to suffer from osteoporosis.
The latest study was carried out by a team of researchers from the Sint Maartenskliniek hospital in Holland.
Earlier this year a study suggested that giving older people vitamin D supplements could cut the risks of suffering a fall.
The nutrient is thought to improve balance as well as maintain muscle mass in older people.