Exercise: Your Prescription for Fall Prevention
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 2.5 million older people are treated in emergency rooms every year for fall related injuries, and one of every five suffer serious injuries such as broken bones or head injuries. Many conditions become risk factors for a fall, such as use of medications, vision problems, lower body weakness, and difficulties with walking, balance and coordination. Studies show, however, that healthcare providers can help cut a person’s risk of falling by reducing these factors, and through prescription of exercise programs including strength training and balance training as fall prevention care. In a French study published in the British Medical Journal, researchers found that “exercise programs reduced falls that caused injuries by 37%, falls leading to serious injuries by 43%, and broken bones by 61%.” The following are the most effective components of a fall prevention program.
- Balance Training is any type of exercise which is designed to improve balance and proprioception, which is the physical sensation of knowing where your body parts are in relation to the space around you. Starting with simple balance training exercises like standing on one foot with the other raised, patients progressively see improvement in the proprioception skills necessary to maintain stability, in teaching the body to react quickly and appropriately to sudden changes in the environment (different surfaces or unexpected obstacles), and in tuning coordination skills so they can continue performing daily activities safely.
- Strength Training is physical exercise that specializes in the use of resistance to build the strength, endurance and size of skeletal muscles. Through the use of resistance bands, light weights, and even full body exercises like swimming, Yoga, or Tai Chi, older adults can slow or reverse the decline in muscle mass that often accompanies aging. Strength training will not only build stronger and larger muscles that can buffer the bones and joints from the impact of a fall (especially those stabilizing leg muscles) it can also strengthen bones, making them more resistant to fractures if a fall should occur.
- Physical Therapy is an incredibly important tool to utilize in the wake of a previous fall or injury, or if an older adult is experiencing balance impairment from a chronic condition. Dealing with lingering pain, stiffness, or instability can lead to loss of confidence, physical insecurity and a fear of falling. According to the American Physical Therapy Association, this can create “avoidance behavior,” or a self-imposed restriction on activities, causing further weakness, isolation, and an increased risk for falls. A physical therapist will evaluate for risk factors and design an individualized program to build strength, balance, and coordination and prevent future falls.
Concerned about falls?
Do you move around cautiously with a constant fear of falling? At Health Star Clinic, we will provide a comprehensive evaluation and create a custom treatment plan to reduce your risk and increase your confidence. Call us today for a complimentary consultation!