Try these crucial exercises and learn more about how to prevent falls.
It's common to hear stories as you age about friends who have broken bones due to falling or find their health declines rapidly after a fall as a result of being less mobile. In fact, one in three people over the age of 65 fall each year which places seniors at high risk of hospitalisation. Incorporating a few minutes of low impact exercises in your daily routine can set you up for better health in the future and keep you on your feet for longer. This is essential to ensure you can live independently at home and continue to complete everyday tasks.
Why are seniors more susceptible to falls?
There are many reasons why seniors are more likely to have falls which impact their balance, strength, coordination and overall mobility. “People might have poorer vision, muscle weakness, chronic health conditions and issues caused by their medications that can affect balance,” said Registered Nurse Fatimah. “Environmental factors contributing to higher risk include poor lighting and uneven or slippery surfaces.”
More reasons include:
- Decreased muscle mass and strength, which compromises stability and makes it difficult to recover from a stumble or any loss of balance.
- Changes to the vestibular system (which provides information to the brain about balance and body position to allow quick reactions to external forces).
- Reduced bone density, found in conditions such as osteoporosis, which causes bones to be more susceptible to fractures.
- Joint stiffness and reduced flexibility, limiting the range of movement.
- Vision changes which impact on depth perception, making it harder to identify obstacles or hazards, ultimately affecting balance.
- Side effects from medications, causing dizziness, drowsiness and changes in blood pressure.
- Chronic health conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, or neurological disorders.
- Dehydration and inadequate nutrition can lead to weakness, dizziness and fatigue.
- Cognitive decline, including conditions like dementia, which can affect judgement and decision-making and increase risk-taking behaviours.
- Fear of falling itself can lead to decreased activity levels and social isolation, contributing to muscle weakness and increased risk of falls.
Nurse Fatimah encourages people to enrol in the latest of integratedliving’s Wellness for Independence® programs, Falls Prevention Wellness, to be proactive about their health and learn more about ways you can prevent a fall.
“The Falls Prevention Wellness program has been designed to empower people to stay at home safely and to understand how they can improve their health and overall wellbeing. We provide evidence-based information about falls prevention and what to do if you have a fall,” Fatimah said.
Falls prevention exercises
To mitigate the risk of falls, it’s crucial to address these factors through regular exercise, a healthy diet, vision checks, home modifications and regular medical check-ups. The good news is, it only takes a few minutes of doing these low-impact exercises each day for proactive health management to build your strength, as well as your confidence.
Falls prevention exercises can assist you with:
- Improved balance
- Increased muscle strength
- Enhanced flexibility
- Joint strength
- Posture improvement
- Better coordination
- Increased confidence
Daily falls prevention exercises
As directed by Exercise Physiologist Tiarne.
This exercise strengthens the muscles of the calves and range of motion in ankles. It also increases ankle strength, stability and improves walking which results in better balance and coordination.
- Stand behind a sturdy chair or at the kitchen bench. (You can also do this exercise seated).
- Hold the chair or bench with both hands.
- Stand up straight.
- Lift your heels off the ground, so you are standing on your tippy toes as high as you can.
- Lower your heels back to the ground, and return to your starting position.
- Repeat until you are tired.
Leg Raises (Seated Knee Extension)
This exercise is vital for strengthening the quadriceps or thigh muscles and muscles around the knee. It also assists in regaining full range of motion in the knee. It will increase stability, lower limb strength and the ability to complete the activities of daily life.
- Sit in a sturdy chair with your back straight. Ensure your feet are flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart.
- Slowly extend one leg straight out in front of you with your toes pointing upward.
- Raise the extended leg as high as you can.
- Hold for 3-5 seconds, keeping your thigh muscles tight.
- Slowly lower your leg back down to the starting position.
- Switch legs.
- Repeat five to 10 times.
Sit to Stand
This exercise is a fundamental daily activity. By practising this movement, seniors can maintain functional fitness, making it easier to perform everyday tasks like getting out of a chair, using the toilet, and getting in and out of a car. The action of standing up engages the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes, and involves multiple joints including the hips, knees and ankles.
- Sitting in a study chair, with your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart and your arms crossed across your chest (please use your hands on chair if needed).
- Lean your trunk forward and place weight firmly.
- Press through your feet and gently press the knees wide.
- Press through your feet and stand up.
- To reverse the process, bend your knees, lean your trunk forward and sit down.
- Repeat 10 to 12 times.
Placing one foot behind the other challenges your balance. This exercise requires you to distribute your weight evenly between both feet and engage your core muscles to maintain stability. It also requires focus and concentration which is good for cognitive health, improving your ability to navigate objects.
- Standing next to a chair for safety and stability .
- Place one foot directly in from of the other foot, with toes almost touching the heel of the other foot.
- Ensure feet are not splayed out and your toes are facing towards the front.
- Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds.
- When completed set time, change feet.
- If feeling unsteady, you can use two chairs on either side of you.
Lateral Leg Lift (Standing Hip Abduction)
Standing hip abduction is the movement of raising the leg away from the midline of the body. The hip abductor muscles are important for maintaining stability and control, contributing to our ability to stand, walk and rotate our legs with ease. We also use this movement when walking to stop unsupported leg from falling “into space”. This improves flexibility in the hips and legs, mimicking the action of getting out of a car and bed.
- Standing with legs shoulder width apart, with a chair in front for stability.
- Tuck pelvis, draw belly button to spine.
- Lift one leg out to the side, making sure you do not rotate your pelvis, keeping hips facing forward.
- Do not allow your hip to hike up toward your rib cage as you lift the leg.
- Slowly lower your leg down to the starting position.
- Repeat 10 to 15 times, three sets in total.
To get you on the right track to better health, our exercise physiologists can work with you to develop a tailor-made program to suits your needs.
To learn more about reducing the risk of falls, our proactive 16-week Falls Prevention Wellness program aims to keep you safe and steady on your feet for longer.
Pictured: Clients Mary and Allan demonstrating the exercises.
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