01 Jun Keeping it simple- Falls Prevention Exercises for home
Staying physically active is the single most important thing we can do to stay well and independent- (NSW Health, 2013).
As people age, exercise may become daunting, especially post joint replacement or after years of sedentary behaviour. People may not know the safest way to start with a routine, they may be weary of their balance deteriorating and they may be living with chronic pain.
Balance exercises are paramount for all individuals; but become increasingly important to reduce the risk of falls in the elderly.
- Every year 1 in 3 people over the age of 65 will have a fall
- Falls are the most common cause of injury and hospitalisation among older people
- Once a person has had one fall, they’re more likely to fall again (Stepping On, 2008).
Falls may include slips, trips and near misses. They can happen to anyone but if falls do occur injuries are more significant the older we get.
Common injuries include:
- Hip and wrist fractures
- Hip and shoulder dislocations
- Head injuries and abrasions
- Bruising and sprains
- Fear of falling that can result in loss of confidence and restriction of activities.
REMEMBER: Falls Are Preventable.
With all this in mind, surely each of us knows either a family member, neighbour or friend that may benefit from some balance and leg strengthening- please spare some time in your busy lives to perhaps practice these exercises together!
Some simple exercises can be practiced at home to reduce the risk of falls. They can be practiced sporadically throughout the day and you can build up your capacity slowly.
- Move slowly
- Stop if you feel faint or experience sharp pains
- Hold on to a strong support such as the kitchen table/sturdy chair against a wall
- Stand tall and breathe deeply to improve your posture
- Heel to toe balance
As well as improving overall balance, this exercise will help you keep your balance if you should have to walk through a narrow space.
Level 1: Feet together Level 2: Step forward Level 3: Heel to toe standing
Choose a level appropriate for you
HINT: You should feel a tiny bit wobbly, but not so wobbly you feel you will fall. By feeling wobbly you will help train leg strength and balance.
Practice: 4 x 10 seconds – alternating between left and right foot in front.
You may find that it is a lot easier to balance one leg than the other. This is okay, just persevere with both legs, so that you do not favour one side too heavily when walking and stepping.
Remember to hold on- this is not cheating! Maintain a tall stance and as you improve try to hold on with just fingertips held lightly on support.
- Sideways walking
This exercise will help improve hip stability, and help you keep your balance if you need to take a sideways step to avoid oncoming traffic or in the instance of recovering from a bump from side on (relying on your new-found leg strength!).
Steps don’t need to be excessively large, small is fine too.
Remember to hold on, maintain a tall stance and as you improve try to hold on with just fingertips.
Marching on the spot
This exercise will help with foot clearance over steps, help with getting in and out of a car or bus and help you feel stronger and less fatigued in climbing up the dreaded stairs.
Practice: 2 x 5-10 steps – alternate between lifting the left and right legs.
Feel free to hold on to two strong supports, one in each hand.
Stand tall. Keep the body straight (avoid leaning to one side).
Don’t worry if the knee doesn’t lift to knee height, lift as high as you feel comfortable with- it will improve over time!
Exercises to improve balance are best practiced DAILY. Try to complete the above exercises as often as possible for the best outcomes. Perhaps take 5 minutes to try after breakfast is cleared from the bench, see how you go.
Please see a health professional, such as an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, if you have any concerns before commencing a balance program or for further advice.
For more information:
Stepping On – Falls Prevention Program http://www.steppingon.com/
More information of Falls Prevention https://www.stayonyourfeet.com.au/health-professionals/resources/