Falls ARE Preventable
You may be one of the majority of people who believe that falls are a normal part of aging, but the truth is most falls can be prevented. To better understand the relationship between seniors and falls, here are a few “reality checks” to dispel some common myths:
- Myth: Falling is something normal that happens as you get older.
REALITY: Falling is not a normal part of aging. Practicing strength and balance exercises, managing your medications, having your vision checked and making your living environment safer are all steps you can take to prevent a fall.
- Myth: If I limit my daily activity, I won’t fall.
REALITY: Some people believe that the best way to prevent falls is to stay at home and limit activity. However, performing physical activities will actually help you stay independent, as your strength and range of motion benefit from movement. Social activities are also good for your overall health.
- Myth: Muscle strength and flexibility can’t be regained.
REALITY: While adults do lose muscle as they age, exercise can partially restore strength and flexibility. It’s never too late to start an exercise program. Even if you have been a “couch potato” for a long time, becoming active now will benefit you in many ways – including protection from falls.i
Top Risk Factors
Falls happen for a variety of reasons, and many falls are tied to risk factors that are linked to a person’s medical conditions or current health state. Other factors leading to falls are based on the environment, safety hazards and fall risk awareness. The National Institute of Health has connected a number of personal risk factors to falling, and these are the top two:
- Muscle weakness, especially in the legs. Older people with weak muscles are more likely to fall than those who maintain their muscle strength as well as their flexibility and endurance.
- Balance and gait—how you walk. Older adults who have poor balance or difficulty walking are more likely than others to fall. These problems may be linked to a lack of exercise or to a neurological cause, arthritis, or other medical conditions and their treatments. ii
What You Can Do
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the top thing you can do to prevent falls is begin a regular exercise program. Exercise makes you stronger, improves balance and coordination, and helps you feel better. iii
Even more compelling, a 2013 Reuters Health article highlights research showing that older adults who exercise are less likely to fall, and even if they do fall, they are also less likely to get hurt. Researchers found that older adults taking part in fall prevention exercise programs were about 37% less likely to be injured during a fall, compared to non-exercising participants.iv
Exercises to Try
Although there may be uncertainty about which exercise programs work best or where to start, the message is clear – exercise in any form is better than none. Exercise helps people stay strong, fit and independent in their everyday life and remain active in the daily activities that matter most. There are four main types of exercise to focus on:
- Balance. Good balance helps you maintain your equilibrium and your body’s position in space. Balance is especially important on uneven surfaces (like on a cracked sidewalk or gravel) and stairs.
- Endurance. Increasing your endurance makes it is easier for you to walk farther and spend more time doing activities that matter to you like playing with your grandchildren at the park, gardening, walking your dog or working in the kitchen.
- Strength. Strengthening your muscles will make you stronger, and lower-body strength exercises also help improve balance. Your increased strength will help you with activities like climbing the stairs, holding your grandchildren and carrying bags of groceries into your house.
- Flexibility. Stretching exercises help your body stay supple, flexible and limber. With greater range of movement you will have more freedom to participate in your everyday tasks and activities, and improved flexibility will allow greater ease of dressing and the ability to make the bed with less effort.v
It’s Never Too Late to Start
What kind of exercise and fall-prevention ‘training’ sound best to you? What do you think you might enjoy, or sparks your interest? Tai Chi, stretching, resistance band training, walking or water exercise (swimming or water aerobics) are some choices to think about when considering physical fitness. The best solution is to mix all different types of exercise to reduce the risk of falling and injury. Just remember, it’s never too late to start!
Just in Case
One more step you can take to bolster your fall prevention plan and exercise regimen is preparing to get up from a fall, should one occur. Residential has created an illustrated, step-by-step guide, How to Get Up From a Fall, to help older adults become ready for any fall situation. Download this guide below.
i Debunking the Myths of Older Adult Falls
ii Falls and Older Adults, Causes and Risk Factors
iii What You Can Do to Prevent Falls
iv Elderly exercisers have fewer broken bones after falls
v Benefits Of Exercise: Benefits For Everyday Life