Move a Little, Gain a Lot – Part One
Fortunately, most of us don’t make national news when we wobble, teeter or stumble.
We’ve seen plenty of celebrities and politicians take a tumble on TV and social media, many of them seniors. But before you think those falls are just due to age we’ve got some good news for all seniors…
Falling Is Not A Normal Part Of Aging
That’s right. Just because you’re a senior, it doesn’t mean you’ve entered a season of repeated falls.
“That’s a myth,” says Vicki Nordby, RN, BSN and a 14 year nurse consultant with Marquis Companies, which includes sister company, Consonus Healthcare and it’s AgeSTRONG clinical and wellness programs helping people remain independent and age in place.
“People of all ages fall, but certain conditions like low blood sugar levels, weak vision, medication reactions and poor balance, can raise the risk of falling. Consonus’ pharmacists work with our clients to make sure reactions to medications aren’t contributing to falls and our Consonus AgeSTRONG physical and occupational therapists are trained to improve strength, endurance and most important, balance.”
Balance Prevents The Leading Cause of Death In Seniors
Reducing your risk of falls is easier than you think. In fact, you can move a little, to gain a lot when it comes to reducing your fall risk. New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that:
- Of the 36 million falls a year, 32,000 people die.
- One out of five falls causes head injury, broken bones and other serious injuries.
- Every year, 300,000 seniors are hospitalized for hip fractures.
- Falls are the second leading cause of traumatic brain injury.
- Falls translate into $50 million a year in medical costs, with three-quarters of that paid by Medicare and Medicaid.
Move A Little, Gain A Lot
Fortunately, new findings from the CDC and the National Exercise Guidelines show that exercise not only improves your mood, brain health, weight management, bone and muscle strength, reduces pain of arthritis, lowers the risk of diseases like cancer and heart failure, but exercise also improves your balance!
Here are the first of four easy and fun exercises recommended by the CDC, the Physical Activity Guidelines for America and from our own Sarah Shearer-Smith, PT, DPT, GCS, CEEAA, RAC-CTA. Sarah is Consonus Healthcare’s long-time Northwest Director of Clinical Services and one of a small number of clinicians in the US who is recognized as a trained geriatric specialist in physical therapy.
(An important disclaimer: Consult with your doctor before beginning or changing any activity program. Physical/occupational therapists can also be invaluable supports and experts: helping to identify which condition- or disease-specific guideline might be safest for you, what are the safest and most comfortable positions and modifications for exercises, if there are best times for exercise due to certain medications, and what are the recommended types/intensities/frequencies/and durations for each exercise.)
Tip #1 Warm Up/Cool Down
Want to avoid injuries? Warm-ups and cool-downs, with lower-intensity activities, are essential for the best circulation, breathing, and/or muscle demand to build up gradually. They also allow you to safely slow down after your workout.
The CDC and National Exercise guidelines for lower intensity and speed exercises include walking in water before water aerobics, walking slower before walking faster, walking before jogging, using lower weights or multi-joint movement exercises like
standing on one foot and doing bicep curls. Ballroom dancing is another multi-joint movement exercise –– combining balance and aerobics.
Tip #2 Strengthen Your Sensory Abilities
Think of all the daily situations you’re in where the risk of falling is heightened: getting in and out of a vehicle or chair, navigating a narrow path, stepping over a threshold, walking to the bathroom in the dark, going up and down stairs and moving side to side. These exercises will help you mitigate those risky situations.
Your Footing: How long can you balance on one foot? If you’re in your 50’s, you should be able to stand on one leg for around 40 seconds; 20 seconds if you’re in your 60’s; and 10 seconds if you’re 70 and older. Why is that important?
A recent study suggests the inability to balance for 10 seconds on one leg is linked to an increased risk of death within ten years. Here’s how to get to your 10 seconds –– and beyond! Complete these exercises standing at a counter or table with eyes open. Place a chair behind you for added security.
- Feet Together and Tandem Stance: Place your feet together. Hold for 30 seconds. Move one foot in front of the other, heel-to-toe. Hold for 30 seconds. Exchange feet and repeat for 30 more seconds.
- Weight-Shifting: Next, return your feet to shoulder distance apart. Keeping your feet solidly on the ground, slowly move your weight to your heels, then toes, like shifting your weight from 6 o’clock to 12 o’clock (don’t rock). Repeat 10 times. Switch to slowly shifting your weight from right to left, or 3 o’clock to 9 o’clock. Repeat another 10 times.
- Reaching: Now, keep your feet solidly on the ground, shoulder-width apart, try to lift one hand off the counter or table and reach forward 5 times, then out to the side 5 times. Switch arms and repeat; forward 5 times, out to the side 5 times.
- One-Leg Stance: Finish up by trying to stand on one leg. Keep your hands on the counter or table and that chair behind you!) The goal is greater than 8-10 seconds. This is an important exercise because when you walk, you’re actually standing, briefly, on one leg.
Remember, whatever your age, reducing your risk of falls is easier than you think. Move a little, to gain a lot when it comes to reducing your fall risk. Balance is the key to living a dynamic, active life –– right where you want!