There are some subjects that I feel very passionate in speaking about, and preventing senior falls is one of them. Every year, thousands of seniors take falls that cause pain, time missed at their work or business, and sometimes permanent injuries and disabilities. I have personally known of individuals who have taken falls that have permanently affected their standard of living through fractures that were incurred as a result of a fall. In this article, I will convey some effective means of helping in preventing senior falls.
Today most Americans are familiar with the importance of exercise as it relates to healthy blood lipid profiles, heart health, circulation, blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, and a myriad of other health related benefits. Few however are aware of the great benefits that can be derived through exercise as they relate to preventing senior falls. Over the years I have worked with hundreds of seniors. I have seen firsthand how much an exercise program with an emphasis on balance can help those struggling to prevent falls. It has been a great source of encouragement to me to see clients over the months and years go from barely being able to walk or get up out of a seated position, to moving safely and securely.
Speak With Your Doctor First
Before we speak of any tips geared toward preventing senior falls, I want to make sure to encourage you to seek approval from your personal doctor before starting or changing your workout program. Your doctor may be aware of certain issues with medications, diseases, injuries, or other issues that can affect your exercise program. He or she may give you certain restrictions or issues to be mindful of. Secondly, I want to encourage you to seek the advice and instruction of a qualified professional. A certified personal trainer experienced in working with the senior population would be a great step toward designing and implementing your personal program. For some seniors with cardiac issues, workouts in a medically supervised environment are appropriate or even necessary. Speak with your doctor to find out what will be best for you. Having established that, let’s move on to how we can prevent senior falls.
Using Weight Machines
The implementation of weight machines in a exercise program is very beneficial in preventing senior falls because of its ability to focus on those muscles that uphold and stabilize one’s body mass against the force of gravity. It is important to note that within the legs, there are numerous muscles that function to facilitate movement in different directions. Working all of the various muscles will ensure that you do not have a deficiency in one single muscle group, which can lead to an increased propensity to fall. By working the muscles in the front of the leg (the quadriceps), the back of the leg (hamstrings), outer part of the hips (gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus), as well as the muscles that run up the inside part of the leg (the adductors), you can ensure that you are working muscles that control balance in various directions and planes of motion. Since knee issues are common with seniors, I would again encourage you to seek the expertise of your doctor and a qualified personal trainer prior to engaging in any leg exercises.
Using Body Weight Movements
When it comes to preventing senior falls, body weight movements are some of the best exercises you can do. These exercises involve the movement of one’s own body mass against the force of gravity. Weight machines, while effective and useful to increase strength, have their own unique limitations. When a person uses a weight machine, they have to lift the weight, but they do not have to control the weight. When a person engages in exercises that require moving one’s own body mass, the person has to both lift and control the weight. There is a big difference between weight machines and moving your own body mass. The latter of these two tends to help in preventing senior falls even more.
Effective strategies for improving balance and coordination involve exercises that require one to balance on one leg for a certain period of time or balancing on one leg while moving the other leg in a certain motion. More advanced persons can even experiment with keeping their eyes closed while doing the exercise or movement. Make sure you have a qualified professional around to help you do these movements correctly and ensure you don’t inadvertently take a fall. By engaging in both weight machines and body weight movements you will over time not only increase the strength of your muscles, but you will also improve the proprioception or communication that takes place between your mind and muscles via the nervous system.
Obesity And Its Effect On Balance
We all know that obesity has many negative health implications for our lives. Obesity can also increase the likelihood of a fall. When a person is carrying excessive weight, the person must account for that additional weight and the areas in which it is stored. I have worked with clients before who carried so much excessive abdominal fat that they had to actually lean backwards while walking in order to counterbalance the weight in front. Needless to say this is not an ideal situation for the persons back, let alone hips and knees.
Losing even a small amount of weight, say 5 to 10 percent of a persons body weight, can have a significant impact on improved balance and a decrease in the risk of falling. Therefore, if a person is overweight and balance issues are a concern, that person should make reducing weight a considerable aspect of his/her overall goals as they relate to improved balance.
As we age, muscle flexibility and range of motion becomes increasingly limited for many people. This can in turn have effects on balance and therefore should be of consideration in any discussion of preventing senior falls. It is beyond the scope of this article to go into all the different stretches that will benefit a person’s range of motion. However, there are several options one should consider to help ensure they are staying flexible. First, you can hire a certified personal trainer to show you various stretches and the proper ways to do them. Within the realm of stretching, there are several different methods. Some methods are more aggressive than others. Secondly, there are many great classes being offered today at gyms and recreational facilities specifically geared toward improved range of motion, flexibility, and balance. These types of classes have grown in recent years as great numbers of the population have become seniors. Classes geared specifically toward seniors are now offered at most fitness facilities.
In conclusion, I want to leave you with some general tips. Preventing senior falls is possible through a concerted effort of the above and below mentioned tactics. If you know someone who is struggling with balance or has had a fall in the past and is fearful of having another, make sure to encourage him or her. Often, doing nothing is the worst thing and is usually a prescription for eventual problems.
Tips For Preventing Falls With Seniors
- Engage in balance related exercises under the supervision of a
- Wear proper footwork and replace when necessary. Going to a
specialty shop that measures your feet can help you get
the perfect shoe.
- Slow down and be mindful of your steps. Look where you are
going before you begin to move.
- Keep a clean house as to avoid tripping on objects.
- Engage in resistance training under the guidance of a trained
professional that helps build up the leg muscles used
in balance and walking.
- Never walk in the dark.
- Avoid alcohol as it inhibits the body's balance mechanisms
- Be aware of the side effects of various medications and their
ability to affect or inhibit effective balance
- Stretch regularly after a proper warmup and under the
guidance of a trained professional to avoid loss of
range of motion
Thanks for reading and continue to check back for more fitness related articles.