When it comes to staying healthy, most plans include some type of physical exercise. However, beginning a fitness routine has more benefits than just maintaining weight or improving cardiovascular health. It also can reduce your chance of falling.
A regular fitness regimen can be the foundation of a successful fall prevention program, for adults at any age. Whether you prefer walking, gardening, strength training, taking Zumba and yoga classes or even running marathons, getting up and moving can build strength, flexibility and balance—all keys to reducing fall risk.
Despite the physical health and fitness challenges that often accompany growing older, the key is staying appropriately active. You may worry about the risk of injury that can accompany some forms of exercise, but the benefits far outweigh the risks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least one in four older adults will fall annually. This means that there are nearly 29 million falls and 3 million emergency department visits annually, making falls a public health issue for those over the age of 65.
The goal for most older adults is to remain independent for as long as possible and to feel their best. Here’s how to make exercise a part of your routine to help you meet that goal.
1. How can you prevent falls? Determine where you are.
The first step in developing a fall prevention exercise program is to establish your starting point. The best way to determine where you are is by tracking how much time you spend moving about—from taking a stroll to gardening—versus the amount of time spent inactive. If you’re not as active as you think you should be, try adding an activity you enjoy to your daily schedule.
At HumanGood community Regents Point, team members offer complimentary fitness assessments for each resident to assess their strength, flexibility, cardiovascular endurance, balance and reaction time. Based on those results, along with the resident’s personal goals, the Regents Point team can design a specialized fitness program just for them.
It’s easy to get started—especially if you have accountability partners in friends or neighbors. At HumanGood community Royal Oaks, the Walking Group meets weekly to take a brisk 5-mile walk along the Duarte trail. They also take walks to Starbucks to grab a coffee or to a neighborhood diner to enjoy a hard-earned meal.
The more you are able to get out and walk, the longer you will likely be able to do so without the help of a cane to aid mobility. Having a group of friends to hold you accountable to your goals can go a long way.
2. Define your goals and explore unique activities for seniors.
Setting firm goals helps to motivate you in your fitness journey. These goals, both short-term and long-term, should be realistic and concise. They can range from big to small such as walking a certain distance over the course of a month or beating your high score at bowling.
It’s important to keep in mind that you can also use technology to support your goals, such as using a Nintendo Wii or other gaming system to practice tennis or bowling.
At Redwood Terrace, a HumanGood senior living community in Escondido, California, residents meet weekly to play several rounds of video bowling. The game requires users to stand and swing a handheld controller in the same motion as if they were bowling with a real ball in an alley. Resident Ellen Gifford, a former league bowler, says she feels the burn while playing the game, noting she goes through the whole action of bowling.
Staying in shape is important to leading a long and healthy life, but it can also be fun. At different HumanGood communities across the country, engaging activities that keep residents active and mobile are among the most popular. Residents gather to meet their fitness goals, work on their balance and strength, and catch up with friends. From water aerobics to walking clubs, residents are able to form friendships while reducing fall risk.
3. Consider these health tips for seniors to stay safe.
Before you begin a new exercise program, ensure you talk with your physician first. This doesn’t mean exercise is hazardous to your health; it’s just a wise precaution to take. Your physician may offer some tips to help you deal with any balance issues or chronic diseases such as diabetes that can affect your fitness journey.
To further prevent falls, incorporate other safety precautions while exercising such as taking group classes or having a phone nearby and within reach in case of an emergency. If your fitness program includes balancing work, you might want to consider staying near a grab bar, chair, wall, or another sturdy surface as you work on your balance.
4. Talk to an expert about fall risk.
When it comes to developing an exercise routine built for reducing your risk of falling, don’t go at it alone. There are many professionals who are available to offer guidance and tips for success and adapt their recommendations as your needs and goals shift. Working with a personal trainer can help you craft the best fitness plan for your specific goals. A trainer can identify simple exercises you can do either at the gym or at home as a part of your daily routine.
You can also meet with a physical therapist to assess your fall risk. Therapists will work with you to improve your balance and gait, giving you tailored exercises to complete in the gym and at home.
5. Ready to get started with your fall prevention program?
The most important piece of creating an exercise program is to make it enjoyable. Looking forward to exercising is the best way to ensure you will maintain it long term, so find activities you truly enjoy and consider asking your friends to join you. If you don’t have access to fitness facilities or like-minded friends, you can find both in senior living communities. For many adults, community living can be the key to health and wellness.
Learn more about the connection between fall prevention and senior living by downloading our free guide, “Fall Prevention: How Senior Living Can Decrease Falls.”