25 Feb 6 Exercises and Techniques to Prevent Falls in Elders
The fall statistics for older adults (65+) are alarming. The US Centers for Disease Control indicates that a quarter of Americans over the age of 65 fall every year. Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults. Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall. Every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.
In addition to injuries, falls lead to other issues. Falls can reduce independence while also leading to more falls. This often stems from a senior’s lack of confidence after a fall or a focus on avoidance of walking situations or overreliance on assistive devices. That can ultimately lead to a cycle of increased falls and reduced mobility. Additionally, this also impacts the family and adds additional burden and stress on one’s loved ones.
One in three seniors suffers from severe muscle loss, called sarcopenia. This loss of muscle affects all parts of the body, affecting balance and stability in the legs and even one’s ability to catch themselves in case of a fall through reduced upper body strength. Plus, the muscle acts as a layer of protection, so the reduced muscle mass amplifies the risk of bone breakage and fractures.
Preventing falls through exercise
Adding the right exercises to your routine can make a tremendous impact on one’s ability to prevent falls through increased stability and strength. Below, we discuss 6 exercises and activities that will work to help mitigate fall risks and improve overall health and mobility. As always, consult your doctor before implementing any new exercise routines.
- Walk: By simply walking regularly and more frequently than before, you help to engage the right muscle groups that keep your body stable, balanced, and strong. It is counterintuitive to avoid walking and think that you are reducing falls by merely avoiding the activity. With reduced activity comes reduced mobility and strength which will only lead to a vicious cycle of more falls and danger. Consider biking and climbing stairs as additional ways to keep your leg muscles and core engaged.
- Strength training: After the age of 50, you lose 1-2 percent of muscle strength per year, and this increases to 3 percent a year after age 60. Adding a strength training program is crucial in warding off age-related muscle loss, increasing mobility, and decreasing bone loss. There are endless exercise regimens out there, even for seniors and those with reduced mobilities. Generally though, older adults should focus on full range of motion movement, which teaches your muscles to control your body while moving. This is especially beneficial in combating fall risks. It is usually best to begin with light weight or only body weight at first, and then continue to add resistance such as with dumbbells and resistance bands. Ensure that you have proper form down before increasing resistance and effort to prevent any risk of injuries.
- Balance training: Don’t forget about the importance of adding balance work to an exercise routine. This can be vital to preventing falls as well as injury, as balance decreases over time as we age. Don’t assume that the balance that you had when you were younger is still prevalent. Also, balance can be impacted by your muscles, particularly your core. By integrating core strength training and exercises that target stability, you can enhance the effectiveness of both as they contribute to improve balance and strength. This Aaptiv article highlights 7 exercises targeted to improve balance for older adults.
- Stretching: As you age, stretching can help you stay flexible, mobile, and, most of all, independent. Research indicates that stretching improves flexibility, promotes balance, and has the power to reduce pain or stress. Stretching can also be targeted to focus on posture and mobility. This can support not only your ability to perform daily activities but ultimately prevent falls as well. Silver Sneakers lists seven simple stretches to start with.
- Integrate methods: Resist the urge to focus on just one or two exercises or techniques to improve mobility and make your regimen well-rounded. Not only does this make the activities safer but it increases the overall effectiveness of the regimen as various muscles and body parts get engagement. For example, stronger legs mean very little if poor balance or posture are not addressed and continue to contribute to fall risks. Don’t stick to certain activities and avoid others because you are more comfortable with them. By introducing variety, you continue to push your body in ways that contribute to progress and overall health. Just be careful not to push your body beyond its limits. Consider formal training through a fitness expert or heed the advice of your physical therapist on ways to be both effective and safe in advancing the limits of your functional capabilities.
- Have fun: It is important that you find activities that you can have fun and take pleasure in doing. By doing so, you are more likely to stick to a routine that fuels progress. Considering taking classes that can combine some of the methods listed here, such as tai chi, yoga, or programs like Silver Sneakers. Make the activity social or buddy up with others. You can hold each other accountable and help stick to workout plans. Plus, your workout partner can make sure you keep proper form and stay safe in your activities.
To conclude, the right exercise routine won’t just keep you fit but can also keep you safe. By incorporating a safe and balanced approach to fitness, you can help prevent falls and mitigate the effects of aging on the body. Stay tuned for more tips to improve your health and safety.