One of the biggest dangers for people over the age of 65 is falling. However, getting older doesn’t mean you have to lose your ability to balance entirely — it just means you have to work on it a little more with regular exercise. Here are some ways you can work out to prevent falls, as well as why it is important.
Why Are Falls So Dangerous?
While mortality rates from heart disease and cancer have actually decreased over time, the danger of falls has increased over the past decade. Falls are now considered the number one cause of both non-fatal and fatal injuries for the elderly. As we age, our body becomes less able to heal after an injury and often cannot restore itself to its abilities before the incident. Falls can affect any part of the body, depending on the angle and height of the fall, and can cause fractured or broken bones, damaged soft tissue, or even head injuries. Older people are also at risk for complications during surgery, even simple procedures for broken bones.
Finally, a fall can affect a senior’s ability to care for themselves, either due to newly limited mobility or to the fear of falling again. This is why even seniors who mostly recover from their injury tend to limit their activity levels once they’re healed. In turn, this decreases social engagement, which is necessary for emotional and mental health. In short: Falls can cause great amounts of damage not only physically, but mentally and socially as well. This is why the best way to deal with a fall is to stop it from happening in the first place.
Join Group Classes for a Social Approach to Fitness
Better balance and an improved ability to catch oneself after a stumble without injury can go a long way towards preventing a fall. Thankfully, it is possible to improve your balance, even as a senior, through regular exercise. If you are new to exercise, it may be best to begin with a more gentle approach, like aquatic exercise or tai chi. Slow, deliberate motions help to develop strength and muscle control, and proper technique helps to support your back and legs, which are important for balance. Many local recreation centers and senior centers offer group classes specifically for seniors. Certain classes may allow you to use a chair as an additional form of support if you need it. Group classes also offer social support, which can help to boost your mental health.
Work Out at Home to Exercise Your Way
If you’d prefer not to join a group class, all is well — there are many different exercises you can do at home. Working out at home lets you exercise at your own pace without the pressure of being watched. It is also convenient — you are not bound to a particular location at a particular time, and if you need to take a break, you are free to do so. For beginners, body weight exercises may be appropriate. For instance, start with a single leg stance in which your legs are even and spaced slightly apart (near a table or chair for support if necessary). Slowly extend your leg to the side and hold the position for 10 seconds, then return your leg to the ground and repeat with the other leg. For a more difficult variation, try closing your eyes.
There are a number of versions of single leg exercise that require you to move your leg in different directions, maintaining your balance all the while. These can help with your flexibility and range of motion as well as your balance. To increase the difficulty even more, try incorporating a balance ball. To get a more in-depth workout at home, you can easily incorporate treadmills for walking and jogging, as well as resistance equipment and free weights for strength training.
Just because you’re a senior doesn’t mean that you have to lose your ability to balance. By staying active and developing your physical abilities, you’ll help ensure that you’ll stay level on the ground when it counts.
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