Falls can have very serious consequences as we age. According to the CDC, each year, more than one in four adults age 65 or older have a fall and 3 million are treated in emergency departments for fall injury.
The risk of falling in older adults is usually related to a combination of factors, including:
- Balance and/or walking problems. Balance can be affected by vestibular problems, vision changes, and changes to the sensations in the feet.
- Lower body weakness.
- The use of multiple medications.
- Home hazards (including dim lighting and trip hazards).
- Feet and footwear issues.
- Positional low blood pressure (known as orthostatic hypotension, when BP drops upon standing).
Falls often occur in the bathroom when sitting or standing from the toilet or shower, or at night in a dark bedroom when getting up quickly, waking up confused, or tripping on the way to the bathroom.
Exercises to Prevent Falls
Physical activity can go a long way toward fall prevention. Exercises that focus on balance and strength can reduce the risk of falling. It is important to talk to your doctor or physical therapist about fall prevention before beginning an exercise program.
Hip & Ankle Mobility
Rolling your hips and ankles in both directions help increase the range-of-motion and flexibility in these joints. These exercises help increase blood flow and warm up the joints before strength training exercises.
Lower Body Strength Exercises
The following exercises help build lower body strength and improves body mechanics and balance, which are all important in reducing falls.
The goal for each exercise is to perform two sets of 10 repetitions. You can hold hand weights to add resistance and increase the intensity.
- Sit-to-Stand Exercise
- Calf Raises
- Side Leg Lifts
- Reverse Lunges
The following exercises help improve balance, stability and coordination. Before you begin, practice the exercises in front of a counter or near a chair to reach out to in case you start losing balance and focus your gaze on a fixed point straight ahead.
The goal for each exercise is to hold the position for 10 seconds and progress to 30 seconds. As your balance improves, you can increase the difficulty by looking around the room, closing your eyes, or standing on an unstable surface.
- Single leg stance
- Tandem stance
Additional Steps to Prevent Falls
- Stand up slowly
- Discuss meditations and changes in your exercise routine
- Have your eyes and hearing checked
- Wear non-skid, rubber-soled, low-heeled shoes that fully support your feet
- Fall-proof your home
- Us an assistive device if you need help feeling steady when you walk
- Always tell your doctor if you fall
Mary McCarthy is a Certified Health and Fitness Instructor with The American College of Sports Medicine and an E-RYT 500 yoga instructor with Yoga Alliance.