What happens to a small boy when he slightly falls during the run on the grass? He will probably cry, and call his parents. They will try to cheer him up with kind words and sweet candies. When the boy sees the candies he might abruptly stop feeling the pain. Sadly, this isn’t the case when an older lady suffers from even just a slight fall. Candies and kind words would no longer be enough to stop the pain as she has more chances to break bones and acquire a head injury. The lady will need to emerge to a hospital immediately as her body is not ready for such a situation. Our body changes every year as we become older. Unfortunately, many external and internal factors make seniors more susceptible to falls. Indeed, there are a lot of methods to prevent falls and add more balance to older people’s lives. This article is going to cover the top 7 effective fall prevention exercises for seniors and other healthy methods to lower the risk of falls.
What Causes Falling In Older Adults?
The most common falling causes are:
- Previous falling history
- Usage of canes and walkers
- Problems with balance or walking
- Bad hearing and seeing
- Health problems that cause weak muscles
- Decrease in cognitive ability
- Vitamin D deficiency (2)
- Low blood pressure (3)
On top of that, a prescribed medication plays a crucial role here as well. The point is that certain drugs, like sedatives or hypnotics, can affect coordination and balance, thus, leading to falls (9).
Older patients who take antihistamines experience blurred vision. Medication for cardiovascular disease can cause a cognitive impairment, which increases the chances to fall (9). Dizziness and hypotension are other consequences of cardiovascular medication. Even younger people who feel lightheaded are susceptible to falls.
What Should I Worry About After The Fall?
It is mind-blowing to acknowledge that every year, 3 million older people are treated in hospitals after fall injuries (10). Even though not every fall causes injury, older people have more chances to face trouble after the fall.
So, what should you worry about after the fall? Of course, it entirely depends on the factors that caused the fall and the strength of the fall itself.
The most common things you should consider after the tumble are:
- Broken bones (arm, ankle, wrist) and hip fractures
- Head injuries, especially, when you are an older person. If you are a senior who hit the head against something then you are advised to see your doctor immediately (2).
- Fears of falling. Remember the last time you fell on the ground? It was painful and you probably tried to do your best to avoid falling. This can lead to a less active lifestyle, which makes us weaker. In case of tumbling again, we are more likely to get a stronger injury. Don’t be afraid of falls because paradoxically, the more you are afraid of them, the more risk of falls you get.
How Can We Prevent Falls In The Elderly?
The risk of falling can’t be completely demolished by the help of a few tips that you can do to reduce the risk of falling in seniors.
As you have noticed, there are certain factors that we can control, and these are:
A safer environment. Take a glance at your home and look for potential hazards that lead to a troublesome fall and make your home a safer place. You can:
- Remove the things you can trip over
- Move coffee tables, magazine racks, and plant stands from the most walked areas
- Repair all the loose floorboards and carpeting
- Store clothing and dishes in an easy-to-reach place
- Wipe off spilled drinks
- Use non slip mats in your bathroom (4).
The right shoes. Uncomfortable shoes lead to foot pain. This pain affects walking and causes falls. Try to use footwear with non-slippery soles that prevent falls.
Checked eyes. How many times did we trip over something only because we barely see this thing? It’s like walking in a dark room and bumping into invisible objects. Have your eyes checked and make sure you wear spectacles or contact lenses to make your walking safer.
Balance exercises. Balance programs for seniors can enhance coordination and strength. According to a 2019 mini-review, studies have shown that balance exercises improve mobility, reaction time, strength, the general quality of life, and, of course, balance (8).
Fall prevention exercises for seniors play one of the most essential roles in maintaining better overall health and reducing the risk of painful falls.
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What Exercises Prevent Falling?
Remember that before jumping into any fall prevention training, an older person should see a doctor to check their overall health. Plus, a doctor can provide special guidelines on the specific exercises a senior should include in the program.
Older adults are recommended to engage in balance exercises at least 3 times per week.
It is important to pay attention to certain exercise tips that maximize the safety and effectiveness of the workout:
- Begin each training with a simple 5-minute warm-up.
- Do simple exercises at first and after gaining enough strength move to advanced versions.
- Stay hydrated.
- Don’t forget to breathe properly.
- Do the stretching during the cool-down process.
Here is a simple fall prevention exercises handout that includes the 6 best activities that work out your balance and lower the chances of falls.
Rock The Boat
How to perform:
- Stand with your feet apart, at hip-width.
- Lift your left foot off the floor by placing all the weight on your right foot.
- Hold in this position for 30 seconds.
- Lower your foot slowly and repeat on the other side.
- Repeat 5 to 10 times (6).
How to perform:
- Stand close to a wall or chair.
- Lift your left foot off the floor by putting the weight onto your right foot. Bend your knee and pull your heel close to the buttock.
- If needed, place your right hand on the wall for support.
- Hold your foot for up to 15 seconds.
- Repeat with your other foot.
Side Leg Raise
How to perform:
- Place your fingertips on something solid to help balance.
- Stand on one leg and raise the other sideways, holding your leg for 5 seconds.
- Repeat 8 times and alternate the leg.
- To make it more advanced try to walk with slow steps alongside a bench or table (5).
How to perform:
- Stand up straight near a sturdy chair for support.
- Place the heel of your right foot to the side or place your right foot against your left thigh or ankle.
- Shift your body weight onto the left foot.
- Keep your hands together and try not to place the foot on your knee.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds.
- Do this to the alternate foot.
Sit To Stand
How to perform:
- Sit on a sturdy chair with your back straight.
- Hold your arms in front of you at shoulder height or simply cross your arms in front of your chest. This will make the exercise harder.
- Stand up slowly from a chair and keep your knees slightly apart.
- Lower yourself back down into the chair.
- Repeat 5 times (5).
How to perform:
- Put a piece of ribbon or string on the floor.
- Place your arms out to the sides.
- Slowly walk along the ribbon and place your feet directly on it.
- Do 15 steps at least.
- Repeat the movement if desired (6).
After these fall prevention exercise programs for the elderly, a simple walk or standing up from the chair will not look as challenging as they were. Eventually, you will feel more comfortable doing daily things without the eternal reliance on a caretaker.
You should see the doctor if during the training you:
- Feel dizzy or lightheaded
- Feel unsteady
- Feel as if you fall while standing still
In this case, the doctor might prescribe you different medications and a physician will recommend different exercises.
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What Are 3 Fall Prevention Methods?
Besides balance and fall prevention exercises, we are going to highlight the top methods that are important to lower the risk of falls. If you stick to them alongside the training you will become more independent and confident with your moves.
There are 3 fall prevention methods that must become a part of life improvement:
Make an appointment with your doctor. Many people might neglect this tip for a lot of reasons: laziness or fear of finding out the truth about their overall health. Yes, it is a normal reaction but a healthcare provider is the cornerstone of safety. During the appointment your doctor will want to discuss a couple of questions:
- What medications do you take? As mentioned already, some medications can cause dizziness and other side effects that can result in falling. Make a list of your medications and supplements and show it to your healthcare provider during the appointment. Your doctor is going to review your medications and point out the side effects that might increase your risk of falling.
- When and how often did you have your previous falls? Make sure you made notes of your previous falls. Try to recall the time and place. Maybe you had instances where you almost fell but were caught by someone else or you grabbed a person when falling. All these details will help the doctor to build fall prevention strategies.
- What are your health conditions? Do you have bad eyesight? Probably you feel pain when you stroll down the street. Be genuine about your problems and don’t try to hide anything from the health care provider. Your revelation will help the doctor evaluate your muscle strength, balance, and walking style (4).
Use assistive devices. A cane or a walker can benefit the balance during the movements. When you climb the stairs, try to grab the handrails and have the bars for the shower installed to hold them when taking a shower. If you have a wooden floor, try to use non-slip treads to avoid slipping.
Be active as much as possible. Exercises to reduce falls among the elderly have already been mentioned. But there are many other things you could do besides training. Your main goal is to make your body move. Amble around the park, take a slow bike ride (if your doctor allows you), or take tai chi– a graceful form of exercise that involves stretching and gentle moves.
If you mix these 3 methods with fall prevention exercises for the elderly, you will raise the chances to do various movements more confidently. By this, you will reduce the number of falls, which lifts the general mood and feelings.
Which Type Of Exercise Specifically Helps Prevent Falls In Older Adults?
Even though the above exercises are effective ways to prevent falls, there is one activity that specifically helps prevent falls in older adults.
According to the analysis in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 108 control trials with more than 23,000 participants found that exercises reduce the rate of falls by 23 percent. Interestingly though, standing-up exercises were more effective than sitting exercises. For instance, tai chi lowered the rate of falls by 19 percent.
The point is that tai chi is a low-impact exercise that places less pressure on joints. It is rather safe for people of all ages and fitness capabilities.
Seniors will enjoy this tai chi falls prevention exercises because:
- They don’t require special equipment.
- It can be done anywhere, both indoors and outdoors.
- They give your body additional benefits, like:
- Reduced stress, depression, and anxiety
- Improved mood
- Enhanced aerobic capacity
- Improved flexibility, balance, and agility
- More energy and stamina
- Bettered muscle strength (7).
Tai chi movements also enhance the quality of sleep, improve the immune system, and, most importantly, prevent you from falling since they help you create balance. Therefore, after the tender and slow moves you will feel especially relieved.
You might get even more pleasure from the activity if you do tai chi with a group of people. This can transform the necessary training into a relaxing and invigorating atmosphere for elderly enthusiasts.
Nonetheless, even though tai chi is safe enough to try, you still need to talk to your healthcare provider before taking tai chi classes.
Fall Prevention Exercises: The Bottom Line
Elderly people are more prone to get injuries from falls. A sedentary lifestyle, certain medications, unsafe home conditions, and health problems can raise the risk of falls. There are many ways to prevent seniors from falling. The most effective way is, of course, a fall prevention program that includes low-impact activities for the elderly.
Please note that elderly people are recommended to consult a health care provider before starting fall prevention balance exercises. If you don’t feel good during the training, you should stop it and go to your doctor.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Exercise for preventing falls in older people living in the community (2019, cochranelibrary.com)
- Facts About Falls (2021, cdc.gov)
- Fall Prevention: Balance and Strength Exercises for Older Adults (2022, hopkinsmedicine.org)
- Fall prevention: Simple tips to prevent falls (2022, mayoclinic.org)
- Falls Prevention – Home exercises (2012, nsw.gov.au)
- How can balance exercises benefit seniors? (2022, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Tai chi: A gentle way to fight stress (2021, mayoclinic.org)
- The Effect of Balance and Coordination Exercises on Quality of Life in Older Adults: A Mini-Review (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Why Do Older Adults Have More Falls? (2021, webmd.com)
- WISQARS™ — Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (2021, cdc.gov)