Physical activity is important for good health and fall prevention. Consider walking, gardening, dancing, yoga or tai chi. Please see your physician before beginning any new exercise program or activity.
No one is too old to enjoy the benefits of regular physical activity.
Of special interest to older adults is evidence that muscle strengthening exercises can reduce the risk of falling and fracturing bones and can improve the ability to live independently.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Regular physical activity that is performed on most days of the week reduces the risk of developing or dying from some of the leading causes of illness and death in the United States.
Regular physical activity improves health in the following ways:
- Reduces the risk of dying prematurely.
- Reduces the risk of dying from heart disease.
- Reduces the risk of developing diabetes or high blood pressure.
- Helps reduce blood pressure in those who have high blood pressure.
- Reduces the risk of developing colon cancer.
- Reduces feelings of depression and anxiety.
- Helps control weight.
- Helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints.
- Helps older adults become stronger and better able to move about without falling.
- Promotes psychological well-being.
The Surgeon General’s Report provides examples of moderate amounts of activity:
- Gardening for 30–45 minutes
- Walking 1.75 miles in 35 minutes (20 min/mile)
- Social dancing for 30 minutes
- Raking leaves for 30 minutes
- Water aerobics for 30 minutes
- Swimming laps for 20 minutes
- Jumping rope for 15 minutes
- Stair walking for 15 minutes
Socialize with your friends.
Volunteer doing something you would enjoy.
Enjoy your leisure time.
Have a hobby.
Have a gratitude list.
Choose a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Drink enough water. Even mild dehydration may contribute to increased fall risk.
If you use alcohol, limit to one drink per day.
Ask your physician if you need to take Vitamin D or Vitamin B12.
Have regular eye exams.
Take your medications as prescribed. Know the side effects of your medications. Keep a list of your medications and include dosage and frequency of each medication. Talk to your physician or pharmacist if you have any questions about your medications.
Environmental hazards account for 30-40% of all falls and one-half to two-thirds of falls occur in or around the home. Check your home for safety hazards and remove or repair. Start by getting rid of clutter. Be sure there is good lighting in every room and at outside entrances. Have grab bars installed in bathrooms and handrails installed for porch steps or steps into a garage. Purchase a tub or shower bench and a handheld shower. Have a phone in the kitchen, living room and bedroom. Keep flashlights handy and obtain a “wind-up” or “shake-up” flashlight in addition to battery powered flashlights.
Footwear is important. Walking indoors barefoot or in socks increases fall risk. Wearing high-heeled shoes also increases fall risk. Choose shoes with good ankle support, a wide toe box and a non-slip sole.
Consider purchasing a personal alert system such as “Lifeline”.
What You Can do if You Have Experienced Falls Recently
Tell your physician about your falls
Were you dizzy before you fell?
Did you fall inside your home or outside?
Did you fall during the day or at night?
Did tripping on something cause you to fall?
Did you injure or bruise yourself when you fell?
Did you go to the emergency room or an urgent care facility?
Your physician may want you to see a physical therapist for a balance assessment.
Find a physical therapist through www.apta.org or call 1-800-999-2782.
Carolyn Craven, PT, DPT