Exercise Can Help Prevent Falls in the Senior Population

Exercise Can Help Prevent Falls in the Senior Population

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Here is an article from our frequent guest blogger Claire Wentz. claire@caringfromafar.com

Many seniors experience debilitating injuries from falls every year, sometimes even resulting in death.  Exercise can play a vital role in preventing falls.  By incorporating fall prevention exercise options into seniors’ lifestyles, they can live fuller, healthier lives.

Scary statistics.  Falls are the most common cause of injury in older adults.  In fact, falls are the leading cause of senior deaths due to traumatic brain injury, and some researchers estimate up to half of senior falls result in injuries of some sort.  Many seniors break hips in falls, and 40% of those who do experience complications which lead to death, such as developing pneumonia while trying to recover from the fall.

Further implications.  According to some statistics, as many as 1 in 3 seniors experience falls each year.  Once an elderly person falls there is often a ripple effect.  Confidence and health can wane, with seniors reining in their activity levels out of fear of falling.  This can quickly lead to a reduced quality of life, including less independence, isolation, loneliness, and reduced exercise, which in turn can lead to less strength, more balance issues, and added health concerns.

Why do seniors fall?  There are several issues which contribute to the risk of falling, but the top concerns are simply slipping and tripping.  Due to failing balance, strength and perception, seniors are more inclined to become off-balance, and then to be unable to correct themselves as they fall.  In other words, when younger people slip they take a few steps and correct themselves, whereas catching themselves and becoming upright again isn’t typically an option for seniors due to their reduced capacities.  As Verywell Health points out, many times added to the situation are other issues such as arrhythmias or medications which can cause dizziness.  Altogether, there is a perfect storm.

Exercises that help.  Many seniors can benefit from the addition of fall prevention exercises.  Medicare.org recommends three categories of exercises which can help prevent falls:

  • Balance exercises. Balance training can strengthen the muscles that help seniors to remain stable.  Seniors at risk for falls should add 3 days per week of balance exercise training, in addition to a proven fitness program for fall prevention.  Balance exercises include things like standing on one foot for several seconds while holding a chair for balance, and walking heel-to-toe for 20 steps.
  • Step exercises. Participating in an aerobic step exercise program will strengthen leg muscles and encourage knee flexibility.  Participants should use a sturdy, broad, elevated step platform.  Exercises include stepping onto and off the platform during the workout routine.
  • Strength exercises. Enhancing strength is important for fall prevention so seniors are strong enough to catch themselves if they become off-balance.  Exercises can include resistance band training, weight training, or simple body weight resistance exercises.  Those with access to a gym or weight equipment can also use weight machines.

Easing into a program.  While many people believe physical complications leading to falls go hand-in-hand with old age, as explained by some professionals it’s possible for seniors to begin an exercise program to avoid that situation.  For seniors who never exercised before, adding a fitness program to their lives may seem overwhelming.  One suggestion is to focus on the casual and routine aspects of fall prevention exercises.  All of the primary exercises above can be performed in the comforts of home.  Some are subtle enough that seniors can do their exercises while engaging in other activities, such as washing dishes or standing in line at the grocery.  Seniors at risk for falls should be encouraged to perform the exercises as often as possible, making it a part of their daily lives.  Note that experts cited by AZCentral suggest discussing each individual situation with a physician before beginning an exercise program.

Exercise Can Help Prevent Falls in the Senior Population

Fall prevention is possible  Falls pose a serious threat to seniors.  Through balance, step and strength exercises, seniors can reduce their risk of injury and even death.  A simple, preventative fitness program can greatly increase quality of life for older adults.

Support and Advice for Exhausted Alzheimer’s Caregivers