Every year over 400,000 older people in England attend A&E departments following a fall.

Falls are a major health problem among older adults. Every year over 400,000 older people in England attend A&E departments following a fall. 30% of over 65yrs will fall each year, rising to 50% of 85yr olds[i].

Why does the risk of falling increase?

  • Deterioration in muscle strength and balance
  • Failing vision
  •  Medication which can increase the risk of, or be the cause of, falls[ii]

Research has shown that just the fear of falling can increase the risk of falling [iii]. Women have the added problem of osteoporosis which places them at greater risk of breaking a bone if they do have a fall. Most falls take place when performing everyday activities and it is estimated that 30-40% of falls can be avoided.

So how can you reduce the risk of falls?

Balance and mobility training can reduce the risks of falling in later life. There have been 5 skills identified which are needed for better balance:

  • The ability to walk and turn the head at the same time
  •  The ability to extend the hip backwards
  • The ability to reach down and pick up something from the floor
  •  The ability to reach up above one’s head
  •  The ability to stand on one foot for five seconds

These provide a guideline to plan a personalised exercise program which should also include posture exercises and stretching.

To challenge balance it could be as simple as changing the base of support from standing on a firm surface such as the floor to standing on a foam base. The challenge should gradually increase as balance improves such as combining changing base of support with movement i.e. standing on a wobble board whilst reaching up to be passed an object or to catch a ball. Balance and mobility exercises also include such activities as marching on the spot, calf raises, balance on one leg with support and step up and step down to name but a few.

Balance and mobility exercises have positive effects on everyday activities such as:

  • Improve the ability to stand on a bus or train as they help develop the ability to maintain and regain balance
  • Walking in poor lighting as they improve non-visual sensory input for better balance
  • Going for a walk in the park, over cobble stones or pavements as they help to maintain and regain balance when ground levels change or when stepping over and around obstacles
  •  Climbing up and down stairs as they increase leg strength and core stability

Other activities which can help (in addition to specific balance exercises) are walking, water workouts, tai chi[iv] or yoga. Such activities reduce the risk of falls by improving strength, balance, co-ordination and flexibility.

Falls can be devastating to the affected individual and in some cases cause death. Even lesser falls can lead to loss of self-confidence and reduced quality of life.

My next blog  will describe some balance and mobility exercises that you can do at home. If you have any questions please post a comment.

Staying Steady – Age UK

Whole Life Fitness, Personal Training for the over-50s

[i] ( DOH 2001)

[ii] http://www.bhps.org.uk/falls/documents/Medicn&RiskOfFalls.pdf

[iii] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-11024126

[iv] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-12170441

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About Whole Life Fitness
Whole Life Fitness is a Personal Training business which caters exclusively to the over 50s. It is run by Helen Witcomb in Farnham, Surrey and the surrounding areas. Personal training is not just for the fit and healthy. Leading a more physically active lifestyle will help to maintain an ability to perform everyday tasks as well as helping to prevent immobility and isolation. For more information please call 07785747669, email helenwitcomb@wholelifefitness.co.uk or go to our website at http://www.wholelifefitness.co.uk

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