As the community-dwelling population ages in Taiwan, concerns regarding long-term care have grown more urgent. Physical fitness plays a key role in enabling community-dwelling older adults to independently complete daily tasks and avoid falling accidents. However, the effect of physical fitness on falls and other fitness-related factors remains poorly understood.
In this retrospective cross-sectional study, 2130 community-dwelling older adults were recruited from a rural region of Taiwan. Each of these participants completed a demographics interview and frailty questionnaire and reported their history of falls. We evaluated each participant’s height and body weight measurements, calf circumference, bone mass density, and results on the grip strength, single-leg standing, chair sit-and-reach, 8-ft up-and-go, 30-second chair stand, 2-minute step, 30-second arm curl, 6-m walk, and back scratch tests to determine their overall physical fitness, which consisted of their body composition, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and cardiopulmonary fitness.
The prevalence of falls in the preceding year among the older adults surveyed was 20.8%, and the resultant hospitalization rate was 10.9%. The older adults who were more physically active in the past week, had regular exercise habits, lived with family, and had no history of hospitalization due to falls, exhibited greater performance on the physical fitness tests. Three time fallers exhibited lower levels of overall physical fitness than did those who had not fallen. The nonfallers outperformed the fallers in grip strength (participants who had not fallen and those who had fallen once, twice, or three times in the preceding year: 24.66 ± 0.19 vs. 23.66 ± 0.35 vs. 20.62 ± 0.71 vs. 22.20 ± 0.90 kg) and single-leg standing duration (19.38 ± 0.39 vs. 16.33 ± 0.78 vs. 13.95 ± 1.67 vs. 12.34 ± 1.82 seconds).
Exercise habits, living status, hospitalization due to falls, and amount of exercise were all associated with physical fitness in community-dwelling older adults. The results of all of the assessments indicated that the participants who had fallen three times exhibited lower levels of physical fitness than did those who had not fallen in the previous year. Physical measurements, including grip strength and single-leg standing duration, are associated with an individual’s risk of falling, which indicates that they should be considered in the development of geriatric physical fitness and fall-prevention programs.