One of the biggest fears seniors (and their families) have is how a single fall can dramatically transform their lives. Bruises, broken bones, and potentially life threatening challenges loom over the risks of falling. But, you are not helpless!
While there are many strategies for mitigating the risk of falls like removing rugs, adding lights, changing footwear, and living with assistance may help, there is one highly overlooked strategy to help those over 65.
As we age, our lifestyles become more sedentary and we often lack the strength we had in our younger years. This is because, if not repeatedly improved upon, our muscles can lose up to 8% of strength every year.
The less strength we have, the more likely we are to fall, incur serious injuries, and heal slower than the year before.
But by improving our strength progressively over the next month (and beyond), we can reduce the likelihood of falls in the home… and the likelihood of suffering serious injuries.
Over the next 4 weeks, we’re challenging you to try the following exercises to improve your quality of life and reduce the fear of falls.
Why Progressive Overload is KEY to Helping Prevent Falls In Seniors
As mentioned, your balance, strength, etc all declines over time as you use them less. Yet, the body is designed to improve if you challenge it.
That’s where progressive overload comes in.
Progressive overload is a method of training the body by slowly adding intensity over time. This increased intensity can either be an accumulation of time, reps, or resistance.
During our challenge, however, we’ll stick with time and reps to get you started.
3 Main Aspects of Exercise-Based Fall Prevention
For older adults, activities such as squatting, standing up from a chair, or walking may be difficult or cause them to feel unsteady.
And while it’s not possible to completely prevent a fall, exercises that focus on balance and strength training can reduce the risk of falling. Such as:
Aspect #1: Improve Overall Leg Strength
Imbalances within the leg muscles can make it difficult to perform even the simplest of movements. What was once an easy squat can become an awkward sit to stand if the hip flexors grow weak.
Improving overall leg strength in each muscle can help mitigate this.
Aspect #2: Improve Overall Leg Agility/Coordination
If you’ve ever been asked to perform a sobriety test (or have watched one on TV), then you know the importance of improving your fine and gross motor skills.
The ability to walk, stand on one leg, or change direction all require overall leg agility and coordination.
Aspect #3: Improve Equilibrium
Life is all about balance… and balance starts between the ears.
Within each of our ears lies a carefully calibrated vestibular sense, helping us stay upright even when things are trying to knock us down (like gravity or that pesky chair we keep tripping over). Without it — and without challenging it to improve — we lose our balance.
Over the next 4 weeks, you’ll be improving each of these 3 main aspects with simple, yet effective exercises. You can download the challenge here to stick on your fridge but keep reading below to learn about each exercise.
Exercises for Leg Strength
While using a chair for support, perform the following exercises to help increase your overall leg strength each day during the challenge.
Sit to Stand
Begin sitting upright in a chair in a comfortable, tall position. Scooch yourself to the edge of the chair. Keep your feet flat on the ground and close to the chair to help create a solid base beneath you to stand.
Lean forward and begin to stand up. The goal is to stand from the chair with no assistance at all, but you may use your hands as a guide like mentioned here.
While standing behind the chair, and resting your hand on the back for support, slowly raise your heels off the ground without letting your ankles shift out to the sides at all. Rise as tall as comfortable before lowering back down in a controlled manner.
In a similar starting position as the previous exercise, hold the back of a chair while raising the toes to the ceiling… again, without letting the ankles shift in any way. Avoid shifting your hips (or weight) backwards as this will result in a potential fall. Lift your toes as far as comfortable before coming back down.
*Note: if you are worried about your balance with this exercise, I recommend that you perform it in front of the couch or sturdy chair. That way, if you feel like you’re going to fall backwards, you can just sit down.
Exercises for Foot/Leg Agility/Coordination
Increase your coordination with these simple agility/dexterity drills. Remember to take your time and prioritize technique over speed.
Chair Leg Taps
Stand behind the chair and shift your weight over to your left leg.
With your right leg:
- Tap the front
- Tap out to the right
- Tap to left by crossing in front of your standing leg
Maintain erect posture the entire time. All three taps count as one total rep towards your weekly goal. Repeat on the other side.
While holding on to the chair with one arm, lift one foot ahead of you. Keep your leg as straight as possible while writing each letter of the alphabet with that foot. The movement is coming from your ankle. Repeat for reps before switching to the other side.
Exercises to Improve Equilibrium
The final movements are designed to challenge your balance and can be done with or without a chair (although, it’s probably best to start the challenge with a chair and progress from there with supervision).
Shift your right foot forward until the heel is in line with the toes of your left foot. Stand in this split position before switching sides.
Lift your right leg up off the ground and hold this position before switching sides.
30 Day Challenge for Fall Prevention
Ready to start this challenge? We’re so excited to hear that! Each session will take about 2-4 minutes a day and will progress each week as follows:
6 reps/5 second hold
8 reps/10 second hold
10 reps/15 second hold
12 reps/20 second hold
Click here to print this colorful refrigerator guide to get started with the challenge!