June 28, 2017
Senior Citizens are more likely to fall as they get older.
Why do senior citizens fall?
31% comes from environmental causes or accidents.
17% comes from an uneven gait or bad balance
How does exercise help prevent senior citizens from falling?
Good physical functioning and mobility are essential for older adults’ independence. Decline in physical functioning predisposes older adults to loss of independence, poor quality of life, hospitalization, and falls.[1–3]Moreover, falls and resulting injuries are among the most serious and common medical problems that older adults experience. Falls, especially injurious falls, may lead to fear of falling, restrictions in physical activity, decline in functional ability, and consequently, poorer quality of life and greater risk of recurrent falls.[4,5] Because falling increases the risk of fractures and other injuries considerably, falls prevention is the most essential element when planning effective injury and fracture prevention for elderly populations.[6,7]
Fall-prone older adults often have multiple risk factors for falls. Poor muscle strength, balance, and functional ability are modifiable risk factors for falls and can be improved through exercise and physical activity. Research has shown that dynamic exercise programs can prevent falls in community-dwelling elderly populations, the most important components of exercise being balance and strength training, followed by flexibility and endurance training.[8,9] Progressive moderate- to high-intensity group programs including balance, jumping, and lower limb strength exercises can maintain or even improve the physical function of healthy older women[6,10]and seem to reduce the risk of noninjurious and injurious falls by 15% to 50%.[7,9,11]
Research has also shown that exercise programs designed to prevent falls may also prevent fall-related injuries.[12,13] In addition to causing injuries, falls leading to medical care ought to receive special attention because their burden on the healthcare system is great.[14,15]
What can be done after a senior citizen falls to improve recovery?
The New York Times determined that, not surprisingly, one of the biggest indicators of how well a person could be expected to recover after a fall was directly tied to his or her level of physical ability. Those with either no disabilities or very slight ones were far more likely to recover more fully and quickly than those who experience moderate to severe disability.
In fact, the source reported that in a study, only one-third of seniors who were classified as severely or moderately disabled prior to their fall were able to fully recover within one year. Thus an important step to take along preventive lines is to improve a senior’s level of physical fitness as much as possible through regular exercise. Even if an individual is living with a disability, regular activity and even physical therapy can help maximize functioning, which can be a huge factor in recovering post-fall.
The ability to balance when walking is reduced with age. However, this doesn’t have to be the case when you do exercises which focus on core stability and strength. For example, seniors can practice standing with both arms raised in front of them or standing on one leg. Work up to standing on one leg with the eyes closed to really challenge their skills in balancing. Include core exercises which provide stability. While a senior may not be able to do planks and sit-ups due to other health restrictions, they can find modified exercises for the ab area. Immobility can lead to muscle deterioration, so work on arm and core strength as well as building muscles in the legs. If one leg was fractured, don’t let the other one sit idle, and the same is true for an injury to an arm. For those who aren’t allowed to get up and walk, you can find sitting exercises that will help keep muscles strong. Light weights in the hands can enhance bicep curls and overhead arm raises. While they will most likely be assigned a physical therapist for some time after being released to go home, it’s up to the family and caregivers to encourage the elderly individual to do the exercises when the therapist isn’t around.
One thing that may be over looked is nutrition. The elderly often have smaller appetites because of lack of exercise, and this issue is exacerbated by reduced activity after a fall. They may fail to eat as much as they should to get the nutrients for healing. Make sure they are eating a decent meal or ask a doctor about a vitamin supplement. Calcium and vitamin D are two nutrients important to faster recovery of fractures.
While an injury from a fall is unpleasant for everyone, it can be deadly for seniors. Three times as many people age 70 and over die from a ground-level fall as those under the age of 70. This is according to a study published in The Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection, and Critical Care. When a fall does occur, it’s important to work with the senior to ensure as much mobility and independence is restored as possible. If you want to start your senior fitness program today or have more questions please contact us or visit our Services Page for more details.
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