Exercise trial aims to reduce falls in older New Zealanders

Once Audrey Kitchin has had her cup of tea mid-morning at Bupa Hugh Green Care Home, she is ready to join the group of residents taking part in the Staying Upright weekly exercise session to help with falls prevention.

Audrey (89), has been attending the sessions for more than six months now and says the sessions have given her more mobility. She has now become more confident to move her hands away from the chair when standing.

“It does our bodies good to exercise and keep us moving. I enjoy the hand exercises and also the tutor who takes the session. It gets the blood pumping,” Audrey says.

The sessions are part of Staying Upright, a trial program run by the University of Auckland, Auckland University of Technology, and funded by the Health Research Council, which aims to investigate the impact of a moderate intensity exercise intervention delivered to a care home over a 12-month period.

The exercises themselves are prescribed by the physiotherapist taking the class and have different levels depending on the ability of the group.

The Bupa Hugh Green exercise session length has steadily increased from 20 minutes to an hour with 3 minute breaks. It consists of three sets of upper and lower limb exercises, three core exercises and balance work to finish.

While it is still early days for the group, Bupa Hugh Green Care Home Manager, Ian Dunthorne says the residents in his home have shown a new level of confidence and engagement.

“This group of residents enjoyed a variety of active activities when they were younger including tennis, gardening and dancing. It’s so important to be able to keep balance and confidence later in life and we’ve already seen more engagement in activities from those more sedentary and more confidence with standing,” Ian says.

Full results of the trial will be released in 2020 after completion of the participating Bupa care homes in Auckland and Hamilton.


Associate Professor at the University of Auckland, John Parsons says the program was successfully piloted in 2008 and reported improvements in physical function.

“This larger year long trial is based on an understanding of the physiological systems of balance and includes exercises to challenge these systems such as muscle strength and balance. The overall aim is to reduce the falls rate in older New Zealanders,” Associate Professor Parsons explains.