Original Study| Volume 19, ISSUE 4, P361-369, April 2018

Progressive Resistance and Balance Training for Falls Prevention in Long-Term Residential Aged Care: A Cluster Randomized Trial of the Sunbeam Program

Published:February 02, 2018DOI:



      Falls prevention is an international priority, and residents of long-term aged care fall approximately 3 times more often than community dwellers. There is a relative scarcity of published trials in this setting.


      Our objective was to undertake a randomized controlled trial to test the effect of published best practice exercise in long-term residential aged care. The trial was designed to determine if combined high level balance and moderate intensity progressive resistance training (the Sunbeam Program) is effective in reducing the rate of falls in residents of aged care facilities.


      A cluster randomized controlled trial of 16 residential aged care facilities and 221 participants was conducted. The broad inclusion criterion was permanent residents of aged care. Exclusions were diagnosed terminal illness, no medical clearance, permanent bed- or wheelchair-bound status, advanced Parkinson's disease, or insufficient cognition to participate in group exercise. Assessments were taken at baseline, after intervention, and at 12 months. Randomization was performed by computer-generated sequence to receive either the Sunbeam program or usual care. A cluster refers to an aged care facility.


      The program consisted of individually prescribed progressive resistance training plus balance exercise performed in a group setting for 50 hours over a 25-week period, followed by a maintenance period for 6 months.

      Outcome Measures

      The primary outcome measure was the rate of falls (number of falls and days followed up). Secondary outcomes included physical performance (Short Physical Performance Battery), quality of life (36-item Short-Form Health Survey), functional mobility (University of Alabama Life Space Assessment), fear of falling (Falls Efficacy Scale International), and cognition (Addenbrooke's Cognitive Evaluation–revised).


      The rate of falls was reduced by 55% in the exercise group (incidence rate ratio = 0.45, 95% confidence interval 0.17-0.74); an improvement was also seen in physical performance (P = .02). There were no serious adverse events.


      The Sunbeam Program significantly reduced the rate of falls and improved physical performance in residents of aged care. This finding is important as prior work in this setting has returned inconsistent outcomes, resulting in best practice guidelines being cautious about recommending exercise in this setting. This work provides an opportunity to improve clinical practice and health outcomes for long-term care residents.


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