Objective Falls are serious issues in older populations. Balance problems are a major cause of falls and may lead to fear of falling and decreased balance confidence. The Otago Exercise Programme (OEP) is an effective fall prevention program that benefits balance function and fear of falling. The primary aim of the meta-analysis was to investigate the effectiveness of the OEP intervention on actual balance performance (i.e., static, dynamic, proactive or reactive balance) and perceived balance ability (i.e., balance confidence or fear of falling) for older adults; the secondary aim was to examine which OEP protocol most improves balance in older adults. Methods A systematic electronic review search was performed in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analysis guidelines to identify randomized controlled trials (RCTs) investigating the effects of the OEP on actual balance performance and perceived balance ability in healthy older adults, and examining which OEP training protocol and intervention format most improves balance. Results A total of 12 RCTs were included in the analyses. The OEP exerted significant effects on static balance (Hedges's g = 0.388; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.131 to 0.645), dynamic balance (g = -0.228; 95% CI = -0.352 to -0.1.4), proactive balance (g = 0.239; 95% CI = 0.061 to 0.416) and perceived balance (g = -0.184; 95% CI = -0.320 to -0.048) in older adults. Subgroup analysis indicated that the group format for the OEP was more effective for improving static (p = 0.008), dynamic (p = 0.004) and perceived balance (p = 0.004) than was the individual format. Sessions of >30 minutes were more effective in improving static (p = 0.007) and perceived balance (p = 0.014) than were sessions of ≤30 minutes. However, the effects of the OEP on balance were unrelated to the types of control group, training frequency and training period. Discussion The OEP is helpful for improving actual balance including static, dynamic, and proactive balance; enhancing confidence in balance control; and reducing fear of falling in older adults. In particular, administrating the OEP in a group setting in >30-minute sessions may be the most appropriate and effective exercise protocol for improving balance.
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