Article Submitted by: Sharon Wagner
Approximately one in four Americans over the age of 65 suffers a fall — in greater context, every 11 seconds, a senior is treated in the emergency room for a fall, which can cause debilitating injuries and reduced mobility. Along with medications, impaired vision, diseases, and surgical procedures, decline in physical ability is one of the major contributors to these statistics. While reduced muscle strength, decreased bone mass, reduced flexibility, and loss of balance and coordination naturally dissipate with age, they can be maintained with exercise. Studies show that exercise can reduce falls in older adults by 21 percent — for those who work out for three or more hours a week, that number climbs to 39 percent. Here’s how to introduce a physical fitness program into your life to prevent falls as best as possible.
Find a Place to Work Out
The best thing about exercise is that it can be done anywhere. And if you’re a senior, working out indoors can be a great option from a convenience, social, and safety perspective, whether that means a gym, indoor pool facility, or in the privacy of your own home. If socialization is an issue, health clubs can be a good choice — not to mention, many facilities and insurance plans offer discounted rates for seniors, so take advantage. As an added bonus, most gyms have an indoor pool, too.
Best Exercises for Reducing Falls
Balance: There are specific exercises that can strengthen specific muscles that help keep the body upright, thus improving stability and preventing falls. To be effective, however, you should conduct a routine at least three days a week. Some moves to consider include seated chair exercises, a single limb stance (while holding on to a chair), body circles, a heel-to-toe walk, the grapevine (like the dancing move), and knee marching.
Step: Along with having aerobic benefits, step exercises can strengthen legs and improve mobility by keeping knees agile. When using an elevated platform, make sure it’s sturdy, at a comfortable height, and has adequate foot space to prevent an accident. Increase safety by placing the step next to a wall so you can maintain your balance.
Strength: Bone-boosting strength training exercises, such as alternating lunges, sit-to-stands, chair leg raises, push-ups (even against a wall), squats, resistance band work, and light weight lifting, can prevent age-related muscle loss while improving mobility and balance.
While exercise and a healthy diet go hand in hand, foods rich in vitamins A, C, E, and B12 and folic acid can aid eye health, which can prevent vision impairment, disorientation, and poor balance. A diet filled with fruits, vegetables, dairy, and whole grains is the best way to ensure you’re getting enough of these vital micro-nutrients. Adequate water intake is also important, as dehydration can contribute to dizziness, confusion, and falling.
It’s important to note that daytime sleepiness is also a major contributor to falls in the elderly, as it’s not uncommon for this age group to have problems sleeping at night. Along with being hazardous to one’s health, lack of rest also makes it difficult to find the motivation to exercise — however, regular exercise has been proven to make it easier to get shut-eye, all the more reason to lace up those sneakers. Definitely speak with your doctor if you believe you have a chronic sleep problem. If you’re working out at home, make sure you remove all tripping hazards, clear the clutter, have ample lighting, and have non-slip flooring. Always wear gym shoes when exercising, but avoid loose, baggy clothing, as it can bunch up and make it easier to trip.
Photo Credit: Pixabay
Article Credit: Sharon Wagner