Otago Exercise Program


The Otago Exercise Program is a series of 17 strength and balance exercises delivered by a healthcare professional  that reduces falls between 35% and 40% for frail older adults. This evidence-based program uses a combination of physical therapists and other certified Otago instructors to deliver the program with follow up at 6 months.

What topics are covered ?

The Otago Exercise Program (OEP) is a series of 17 strength and balance exercises delivered by a trained health care professional in the home, outpatient or community setting that reduces falls between 35% and 40% for frail older adults. Exercises are designed to challenge the participant’s strength and balance for up to 30 minutes, 3 times a week.  A walking program is also part of the Otago Exercise Program.

Participants can use a variety of tools to track participation rates and progress. Once participation with a certified instructor is complete, it is recommended that the exercises be continued at home for 6 months.

Research based balance treatment

Who can attend ?

This program is shown to be effective in adults age 65 or older who have a history of falls or were identified as an increased risk for a fall by their physician or health care professional. This program is not appropriate for older adults who have a low risk for falls or who have the strength and endurance to participate in a community-based Tai Chi class.

What can I expect from the class ?

The Otago Exercise Program (OEP) was developed and tested by Dr. John Campbell and Dr. Clare Robertson at the University of Otago, Otago, New Zealand.  Implementation and dissemination of the program in New Zealand was studied in the mid-late 1990’s and proven to decrease falls and fall-related injuries in high-risk older adults by 46% (Robertson, Devil, Gardner, & Campbell, 2001).

In 2010 the program was selected for dissemination to the United States. The program was modified to be able to facilitate the program both in the home as well as in a community-based setting. These modifications did not in anyway compromise the fidelity of the program.

The outcomes from US dissemination include the following:

  • Improvements in functional outcome measures
  • Improvements in perception of ability to sit, stand, kneel, walk
  • Improvements in balance confidence and fear of falling

Details of the program

Participants are asked to attend a minimum of 5 sessions over 8 weeks with a provider of the Otago Exercise Program. The first session is to introduce the participant to their exercise plan.  The remaining sessions are to insure the participant can perform their exercise program either on their own or as part of a class and to progress the intensity of the exercises.

Participants are asked to complete their Otago Exercise Plan up to 30 minutes/day, three days a week as well as complete their walking program up to 30 minutes/day, three days a week.   It is suggested that six months be the minimum commitment by the participant to receive the most benefit from the program.  If the participant does not do the exercises, they will receive little to no benefit from the program.

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