September is National Falls Prevention Month. This year’s theme, Take a Stand to Prevent Falls, seeks to unite professionals, older adults, caregivers, and family members to play a part in raising awareness and preventing falls in the older adult population.
Falls have become an epidemic in America and are now the leading cause of death due to injury for those over 65, and account for 40% of all nursing home admissions. Falls are also the leading cause of injury-related emergency department visits for older adults, the major cause of hip fractures, and responsible for more than half of fatal head injuries. Nearly half of all seniors sustaining a fall DO NOT resume independent living.
For the person who takes a fall, they become more nervous about experiencing it again. Their gait and speed of walking changes and even the smallest, imperceptible changes can lead to another fall as our bodies adjust to the new reality. The family members of someone who has taken a fall find themselves a little more concerned and guarded about the fall itself.
There are seven simple exercises that we can do to improve balance and strength to reduce the risk of falls.
The exercises are: (Hold onto a chair or other support, if you need for ALL exercises)
- Heel lifts – stand with both feet flat on the ground, shoulder-distance apart. Raise your heels and stand on the ball of your feet. Hold for a second and lower back down. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions
- Toe lifts – stand with both feet flat on the ground, shoulder-distance apart. Raise your toes in the air until your weight is on your heels. Hold for a second and lower your toes. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions
- Knee lifts – stand straight, feet shoulder-distance apart, and lift one foot off the ground. Hold 2 seconds, lower your leg. Repeat 10 repetitions. Switch sides.
- Heel to toe walk – Slowly walk forward placing the heel of one foot directly in front of the other. Look ahead a bit to help keep your balance. Repeat steps for a length you feel comfortable.
- Hamstring curls – Stand straight with feet shoulder-distance apart. Bend the knee, curling foot behind you and lower it back down. Repeat for 10 repetitions. Switch sides.
- Sit to stand – sit in a sturdy chair and place both feet on the floor, shoulder-distance apart. Put equal pressure from the ball of your foot to your heel. Core tight, stand using only your leg muscles and slowly sit down again. You can hold your arms out in front of you or cross them. Repeat 5-10 repetitions.
- Wall push-ups – place your hands on the wall at chest height with your fingers pointed up, shoulder-distance apart. Keep your back straight and slowly bend your elbows to bring your body toward the wall. Then straighten your arms to push away from the wall. Repeat 10 repetitions
Starting with these exercises at least twice a week, and building from there will show benefits in balance and strength…and confidence!
Be happy and healthy and confident always! – Meredith