A Multi-Modal Approach: Exercises Aimed at Strengthening Seniors Against Falls
Shop Local Artisans Online
Shop Local Artisans Online

A Multi-Modal Approach: Exercises Aimed at Strengthening Seniors Against Falls

by guest writer Stephanie Haywood

July 15, 2019

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
Thirty percent of Americans age 65 and over fall at least once a year, according to the National Council on Aging, so it comes as no surprise that falls are a major concern and health problem among older Americans. Unfortunately, it only gets worse with age, as statistics show that the older people get, the more likely they are to experience a fall. Medical science has helped expand life expectancy among the elderly, yet this has contributed to a higher rate of falls among older adults who are dragging maladies along with them into old age. This means that the threat of falls among the elderly continues to grow with each passing year.

Fortunately, research has shown that a combination of moderate-intensity exercise regimens, based on conditions and addressing individual health concerns, can help increase muscle strength and improve balance, thereby reducing the threat of falls and their consequent injuries. This is an important consideration, as the mere threat of falls is enough to convince many seniors and their family members to seek institutional accommodations for them.

Prevention

Considering the factors that often contribute to falls among the elderly, it is important to establish a program of physical activity that takes into account issues like bone fragility, muscle weakness, and loss of balance. Physicians have increasingly utilized a multi-pronged approach that incorporates a battery of physical exercise aimed at strengthening the body and reinforcing confidence among fall-prone individuals that they can improve their overall health and mitigate the likelihood of falls. Research studies published in 2007 revealed that a sustained, combined exercise program can help elderly individuals make marked improvement in strength and balance, thereby reducing falls among people in the 65-and-older category. Multi-modal exercises, including strength training, agility training, tai chi, and stretching exercises, have reduced falls, consequent injuries, and the looming fear of falls among older adults.

Condition-Specific Exercises

A flexible exercise program has been proven effective among older adults suffering from conditions such as Parkinson's disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes, which represent major risk factors among the elderly. Physicians have discovered that exercise programs must focus on functional capacities like agility, balance, mobility, flexibility, and coordination to be effective. Seniors benefit most when walking, stair-stepping, and the carrying of objects are incorporated into the overall regimen. Muscles and bones weakened by osteoporosis can be trained and strengthened against the failure of coordination, strength, and balance, factors that commonly lead to falls.

There are many exercises that may be more familiar to many seniors than tai chi and various stretching exercises and that, when used in concert with such exercises, create an effective approach to fall prevention. Alternating lunges, single leg stands, tricep kickbacks, chair leg lifts, and sit-to-stands all do an excellent job of improving lower-body strength, giving seniors a much stronger base. As well, high-impact resistance exercises prevent bone loss, a major contributor to falls, during the aging process through bone formation stimulation. Some of the most effective balance-enhancing exercises include foot tapping, raising a foot to tap a step 15 times, then repeating the same thing with the other foot; head rotations, in which you slowly rotate the head from side to side while keeping your body as still as possible; and alternating knee lifts.

The high rate of falls among the elderly cannot properly be ascribed to one specific factor. Frequently, falls occur due to a combination of factors. That is why it's important that seniors engage in a combination of exercises aimed at improving strength, balance and flexibility.

Photo Credit: Pixabay