Review: Vitamin D and exercise may reduce risk of falls in elderly

30 May 2012

The US Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) reviewed current research and found vitamin D and regular exercise may prevent falls among older adults.

Falls among older adults

Falls are the most common cause of injury and hospital admissions for trauma in the elderly population. The CDC reports that 20-30% of older adults who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries such as lacerations, fractures, or even traumatic brain injuries. The death rates from falls for older men and women have increased greatly over the past 10 years.


The USPSTF reviewed 50 clinical trials looking into the best methods to prevent falls in adults ages 65 and older in a community setting. They found that those who engage in exercise or regular physical therapy and supplement with vitamin D reduce their risk of falling, most likely due to increased muscle strength and balance. Nine trials focused specifically on vitamin D supplementation, with a 17% reduced risk of falls. The task force reviewed 50 trials looking at the relationship between exercise or physical therapy and risk of falls, they found a 13% reduction in risk of falls.

Previous research supports the USPSTF recommendation. One study found women in the US with a vitamin D level of 19ng/mL had a 70% increase in fractures when compared to women with vitamin D levels of 28ng/mL. An Australian study found fall and fracture rates had a seasonal cycle, with increasing rates of hip and wrist fractures during the end of winter.


As stated above, the USPSTF recommends supplementing with vitamin D as well as engaging in physical activity. Although the report does not make any specific recommendations regarding vitamin D dosage, the Vitamin D Council recommends 5,000IU/day to optimize bone health and strength, and to help reduce your risk of falling.

Source: Annals of Internal Medicine – Vitamin D Council

Center for Disease Control

Page last edited: 13 June 2012

Further research

Ponsonby AL, Lucas RM, Lewis S, Halliday J. Vitamin D status during pregnancy and aspects of offspring health. Nutrients. 2010 Mar;2(3):389-407.

Teale GR, Cunningham CE. Vitamin D deficiency is common among pregnant women in rural Victoria. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol 2010; 50: 259-261.

Munns C, Zacharin MR, Rodda CP, Batch JA, Morley R, Cranswick NE, Craig ME, Cutfield WS, Hofman PL, Taylor BJ, Grover SR, Pasco JA, Burgner D, Cowell CT; Paediatric Endocrine Group; Paediatric Bone Australasia. Prevention and treatment of infant and childhood vitamin D deficiency in Australia and New Zealand: a consensus statement. Med J Aust. 2006 Sep 4;185(5):268-72.