In the final of our three articles celebrating Exercise Right week, Elise Edwards lays out how exercising can maintain balance and prevent falls. Read part one on exercising for a healthy brain here, or read part two on exercise and cancer here.
Most people take balance for granted, navigating each day without thinking or effort. Unfortunately, as we age, losing our balance is a common issue making older adults more susceptible to falls and injury. Sadly 30% of adults over the age of 65 experience at least one fall per year. This equates to over $600 million for acute care in Australian hospitals; but what if there was a way to prevent the falls from happening in the first place?
Occupational therapists recommend taking your time (not rushing), cleaning up clutter and removing trip hazards, but you can go even further. Maybe consider if you’re wearing the correct footwear and if your home is well lit! But, of course, the number one preventor of falls for older Australians is exercise; but what type of exercise is best for preventing falls?
Types of Exercise
As with all exercise, every individual is different; but a combination of various types of activities, which includes a walk on most days, will have the best outcome. For best results, try doing a little bit each day (even 10 minutes each morning and 10 minutes each evening). You could even try incorporating a few exercises while waiting for the kettle to boil (like doing some calf raises while holding onto the kitchen bench), or doing leg extensions or seated marching during the ad break of your favourite TV show. A study was performed in a nursing home in Finland, where they asked the residents to simply stand one extra time every time they did a task (e.g. encouraged to stand up and sit down twice prior to going to the dining room for breakfast). Believe it or not, the falls risk of residents halved! Remember, a little does go a long way!
Maintaining strength is not only important to keep our muscles healthy, it also helps with performing daily activities (like getting out of a chair or stepping over something at home) and has an important role in maintaining balance. Resistance exercises can be performed using your body weight, light hand weights or resistance bands, various machines/free weights found in a gym setting or even using common household items like cans of food. Moving your muscle under a greater resistance promotes an increase in muscle mass and therefore great glucose uptake. Be sure to ask your exercise physiologist what type of resistance training is right for you.
Declining balance is common as we age. Practicing both static balance and dynamic balance, in a range of different foot positions and environments are great ways to maintain and even improve your balance. Don’t forget about group exercises classes including Tai Chi being a great option for balance training too. Research has shown that when you exercise in group, motivation to continue long term is greater…it’s also a fun social event! In Queensland, the government have created the Stay on Your Feet Program to keep older Queenslanders active and independent. Be sure to ask your exercise physiologist for safe specific balance exercises or groups that would be suitable for you!
For more information, contact your health care professional or visit Exercise is Medicine Australia to view the public fact sheets for Exercise and Falls Prevention ( ).
Want to further your exercise journey? Read about BallyCara’s Wellness Program here, or call us on 1300 272 222 for more info.
Categorised in: BallyCara Blog
This post was written by Lachlan Green