Falls are a serious problem that older adults face which can result in anything ranging from minor injuries like slowly healing bruises to more major concerns such as fractures or severe head injuries. The effects of such injuries can lead to impairments such as chronic pain and a reduction of independence. Perhaps the most significant impairments are the avoidance behaviors developed as a result of trying to avoid a fall. Falls and the fear of falling are interrelated problems that become each other’s risk factor leading to very distinct declines in mobility and movement patterns, restricted social interactions and ultimately increase the risk of falling. In short, the fear of falling causes more falls.
Changes in walking include less arm swing, less trunk rotation, less lateral stability and shorter step lengths or shuffle steps – all of which reduce the body’s ability to counterbalance a potential fall. In many cases a previous fall did not have to occur before these movement changes take place – sometimes all it takes is just hearing about a peer who recently endured a fall. It is important to realize that such movement changes greatly impact the way the muscles are used while walking. Timid walking tends to mean that the foot doesn’t clear the ground as well when stepping which can increase the risk of falling.
What Can Be Done?
Fortunately, the risk factors for falls like muscle weakness, gait deficit and balance deficit, can be addressed with thoughtful exercise.
Some recommended exercises to include sit to stands, hip abductor raises,
Sit to Stands
Sitting with an upright posture, knees bent and feet flat on floor, shoulder-width apart.
With a straight back, lean forward so that your nose goes over your toes
Keep the weight on your heels as you slow stand up keeping your back and shoulders straight.
Take about a 3 second pause before slowly sitting back down leading with your hips.
Perform 8-15 times or as tolerated comfortably.
If you are more advanced, try a squat instead where instead of sitting down completely, you would begin to stand back up just before your hips touches the seat of the chair.
Standing Hip Abductor Raises
Stand beside the back of a chair for support.
Slowly raise the outside leg away from midline similar to making a snow angel as far out as you can with control and without pain.
Slowly return the leg back down to the ground and perform 8-15 times or as tolerated.
Repeat the exercise for the opposite leg.
Standing Toe and Heel Raises
Stand behind the back of a chair for support.
Begin by slowly raising your body up onto your tippy toes activating the calf muscles.
Control your body back down with feet flat on the ground.
Slowly lift the toe up in the air activate the shin muscles and promote more balance onto the heels.
Slowly return toes firmly back on the ground.
Perform the exercise 8-12 times or as tolerated.
The goal of adopting an exercise plan that promotes strength, flexibility, and balance is to regain confidence in the way you use your body to maintain independence and quality of life for as long as possible.
Notice this pattern in your everyday life? Please give Reneu Health Inc. a call!
We are a team of experienced clinical kinesiologists who specialize in preventive and rehabilitative exercise for seniors. We believe that aging is part of a beautiful journey and everyone deserves to live their best life. We understand that as our bodies get older, it doesn’t function the same. As some see this as a limitation, we see it as an opportunity. With the right mindset, knowledge, tools and support we help improve quality of life, slow the progression of certain conditions and help you take control of your health.
Call us today for a free consultation. San Diego 619.263.0329 or Orange County 949.245.6239.