Fear of Falling
One of the signs of aging is slower, less coordinated movement and greater instability when standing and walking. Consequently, one of the greatest fears among older adults is taking a tumble that leads to injury. According to the National Council on Aging, falling is the leading cause of fatal injuries among older adults, and the most common cause of trauma-related hospital admissions. However, the NCOA believes that the incidence of falls can be markedly reduced by lifestyle interventions.
Things that Make You Go Boom
Many factors contribute to increased fall risk in older adults. High on the list are medications that interfere with balance and mental acuity. A sedentary lifestyle and excessive sitting bring on postural changes that affect movement mechanics and predispose older adults to falling. Bifocals and trifocals can distort vision, and loss of hearing can interfere with judgement. Loss of muscle mass, called sarcopenia, leads to joint instability and poor balance recovery. Low bone mineral density, or osteoporosis, leads to frail bones that break easily in a fall. If an injury from a fall results in bleeding, blood thinner medications can prevent blood from clotting and can lead to death from blood loss.
Falling and Fitness
An active lifestyle that includes fitness activities to promote balance is key to reducing the risk of falls among the elderly. Resistance training programs designed to promote optimal muscle tension at the joints can improve posture and boost the ability to recover disrupted balance. Flexibility training can likewise restore healthy posture and increase fluid movement. Water exercise provides a safe workout environment that limits the risk of falling while promoting strength and range of motion. Regular aerobic exercise can reduce disease risk and lower dependency on medications.
Deliberate balance training is another strategy for reducing the risk of falls. Slow deliberate movements like those done in tai chi or qui gong require balance and mental focus. There are a number of balance training exercises geared to older adults that can be easily found on the Internet. There are also many programs that offer certifications for fitness professionals who work with older adults. In addition to balance training, practicing how to get up after a fall can be life-saving.
Educating yourself about older adult health is key to successfully working with this diverse population. W.I.T.S. has got you covered with certification and continuing education courses including Certified Older Adult Fitness Specialist, Able Bodies Balance Training, Certified Personal Trainer, Older Adult Fitness Foundations, and Exercise Program Design for Special Populations.
National Council on Aging: Falls Prevention Facts