The Fight Against Falls
July 20, 2021
Prevent Falls In Elderly With Simple Exercises
About one third of people aged 65 and older, and half of people aged 80 and older, fall at least once a year. Falls can lead to serious injuries such as fractures and often mean a trip to hospital, as well as reduced confidence and independence due to fear of falling again. Anything that can be done to prevent falls is therefore extremely important so that we reduce this risk – and the good news is that there are some simple things that can be done!
Falls become more of a risk for a number of reasons, including impaired vision, polypharmacy (effects of multiple medications), and environmental hazards. Two of the primary reasons for falls that we can control are poor balance and muscle weakness.
As we age, we start to lose muscle mass – this process is known as sarcopenia. If this isn’t maintained through exercise, it will continue to deteriorate leading to an increased risk of falling. Impressively, muscle has the ability to adapt to resistance training throughout our lives, despite the natural aging process.
Regardless of age, we should be aiming to stay active, and this should include activities which build muscle and bone strength as well as balance at least two times a week. Check out the UK Government website for more advice and information about these recommendations!
So what exercises would be good to help prevent falls?
These 4 exercises can help to improve your strength and balance, and BONUS…they can all be done at home! Make sure you have a solid surface to hold onto for support if needed.
Calf raises standing: Stand upright with good posture. Hold on to a wall, rail or table for support. Slowly lift your heels and rise up onto your toes, then slowly control the movement back down again. This exercise will strengthen the calf muscles and ankle joints.
Sit to stand: Sit upright with good posture. Place your arms across your chest. Gently lean forwards and use as much leg and core strength as you can to push yourself up. If you get stuck, use one or both arms to assist. Once upright, stand up straight. When you feel comfortable, slowly sit back down, ideally with your arms across your chest. However, if you need some guidance then use your arms to assist the sitting. Touch your bottom on the chair, and then repeat the first part by standing up again. Try to keep a straight spine during the sitting rather than let your back round forwards too much. This exercise will strengthen your legs and core.
Heel-toe walking with support: Stand upright with good posture. Hold on to a wall, rail or stable surface for support. Check your environment for any objects. Place one leg in front of the other, in a straight line with the behind foot so that both feet are almost touching with the toes of the back foot and the heel of the front foot. Repeat with the opposite leg, and continue. This exercise improves strength and co-ordination in the legs.
Single leg stand with support: Stand on one leg, and try to keep your balance. Be careful and hold on to a wall or table for support when you first start this exercise. A single leg balance exercise such as this is an enormously valuable exercise, and its benefits including strengthening the muscles and ligaments around the ankles and knees, and improving balance.
(check out our facebook post on 29/07/21 for pictures of these exercises!)
As your confidence, strength and balance improves with these exercises, you can make them more challenging by reducing the amount of support used.
The CSP has created a fantastic leaflet which includes these exercises, alongside other fall prevention strategies and advice. Click HERE to access the leaflet.
If you’re unsure whether these exercises are right for you, or if you feel you need further help and guidance regarding fall prevention for older people, get in touch with our physios who can answer any questions or concerns. 😊
Senior MSK Physiotherapist