Balance Up Your Health
Falls and Balance Training for Older Adults
Written by Erin Glass, Exercise Physiologist at Eureka Osteo
As you get older, you may notice changes to your body including poor eyesight, weaker muscles, stiffer joints and feeling unsteady on your feet. The natural ageing process can place older adults (above 65years) at an increased risk of injury, joint pain and having a fall. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death and hospitalisation for this age group, which can result in disability, activity restriction, loss of confidence and fear of falling. All of these can reduce your quality of life and independence. The good news is exercise and balance training can help to prevent falls and here at Eureka Osteo, we can help you to get started and improve you balance.
What Causes Falls?
Loss of balance is just one of the many reasons why a person can fall. Some others may include:
· Chronic health conditions
· Poor vision
· Loss of lower limb strength/sensation
· Cognitive impairments/slowed reaction times
· Multiple medications
· Certain illnesses such as labyrinthitis or Meniere’s disease
How can exercise help
You may have heard the saying ‘move it or lose it,’ and when it comes to ageing, it couldn’t be truer. Exercise and physical activity are proven to significantly reduce falls risk and improve your overall health and independence. Exercise can also:
- Improve muscular strength, power and flexibility
- Assist with balance and confidence
- Help prevent increased “wear and tear” on joints or joint pain
- Increases energy levels and manages fatigue
- Help manage or prevent chronic disease
- Improve cognition, mood and sleep patterns
According to the National Physical Activity Guidelines, it is recommended older adults exercise for at least 30minutes per day in as many ways possible, whether that’s playing a sport such as cycling, golf or bowls, completing household chores such as gardening or cleaning, or undertaking a daily exercise program. Research suggests that those with balance and strength deficits, or lack of confidence when walking should undertake specific balance and strength training to help reduce the risk of falls.
Here’s my top tips to get you started:
- Before you eat your meal, stand up and sit down 5 times before eating
- Stand on one leg whilst brushing your teeth or waiting for the kettle to boil
- Walk heel to toe down the hallway, like your walking along a tightrope
- Stand with your feet close together and scan the room from left to right
- Take up Tai Chi or even dancing
- Visit an Exercise Physiologist and ask for a strength and balance training program
So where to from here? If you are interested in commencing an exercise program or want to try something new the best place to start is with your doctor. They may refer you to an allied health professional such as an Exercise Physiologist, Physiotherapist or Osteopath, all trained to assess and prescribe exercises. Alternatively, you may contact me directly and I can get you started: we have a well-equipped gym at Eureka Osteo. You may also find it helpful to reframe the idea of exercise in your mind into something really positive such as “motion is lotion for my body”, or “keeping my body active is just as important as keeping my brain active”. Exercise shouldn’t cause pain or be a chore, so think of it as taking control of your health to ensure you live a healthy and more physically able life.