by Kathleen Williams
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three adults over the age of 65 experience a fall, leading to about 800,000 being hospitalized every year due to falls and fall related injuries. Another study reported that as we age, the risk of falling can increase by up to 60%. Risk factors of falls include certain medicines, poor balance, vision problems, and lower body weakness. Unfortunately, once a fall has occurred, individual activity level tends to decreased due to fear of falling again or serious injury such as broken bones or joint damage. This inactivity leads to loss of muscle strength, flexibility, and mobility, which may cause more unsteadiness and falls; creating a vicious cycle.
What can be done?
Start by checking medication side effects and removing trip hazards around your home. Exercises to improve balance may also aid in fall prevention. Simple exercises such as walking backwards, sideways or heel to toe, standing on one leg, and standing up from a sitting position multiple times in a row are good options for beginners or those who feel unsteady. Balance training may be as easy as standing on one foot while you brush your teeth (you can hold onto your bathroom sink/counter if needed). Stand on one foot in the morning, and switch to the other foot while you brush your teeth at night. If this is too easy, try it with eyes closed.
More advanced exercises include yoga or tai chi, which can be fairly simple to do and can be done without equipment. There are many options for guided classes, creating a space and time to work on balance. YouTube is also a great way to research new exercises. Stability balls, balance boards and balance pads may be used to challenge those looking for advanced training.
While working on balance, make sure you are safe. One option is to perform exercises near a wall or other support when balance training. It is also wise to consultation with a doctor before making any changes to at home exercises to help tailor exercises to the appropriate difficulty level. With proper balance training and minimized risk, a positive change can be made to prevent falls and keep our community healthy and moving!
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