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Simple Steps to New Year’s Fitness Designed to Prevent Falls, Increase Mobility

By Steve Barlam
Chief Professional Officer, LivHOME

The New Year always brings resolutions and there’s no better time for seniors take steps to avoid falls and remain mobile. This can be achieved, quite simply, by becoming more agile and increasing balance.

Exercise benefits all age groups, even when started later in life. For seniors, taking steps to become more active can prevent the weakening of muscles and joints, which leads to loss of mobility and increases the risk of falls. More than half of all falls occur at home and happen for many reasons including tripping while walking, medications and their side effects, dementia and visual problems.

Fitness For Seniors

Before starting a program, it’s important to consult with a doctor, particularly if a high-risk condition such as diabetes or heart disease exists. It’s also important to begin slowly and work toward a goal over time, following a few helpful tips to get started and to maintain a fitness routine.

Fitness for seniors should focus on four areas: strength, balance, endurance and flexibility. Increasing lower body strength can help build balance and the following exercises require little more than a table or chair to actually do:

  • Side leg raises to strengthen muscles at the sides of hips and thighs
  • Hip flexion to strengthen thigh and hip muscles
  • Hip extensions to strengthen buttock and lower-back muscles

Balance exercises can be easily done almost anywhere and include:

  • Standing on one foot while waiting in lines, remembering to alternate feet
  • Walk by placing one foot in front of the other, heel to toe, or try sitting down and standing again in this position

Maintaining an exercise program is just as important as establishing a new program and several steps can help ensure success over the long term:

  • Start slowly and try not to over commit.
  • Tell a friend about your new program to create an accountability partner.
  • Build in rewards, even for meeting small goals.
  • Change exercises regularly to keep the program interesting.
  • Re-think the exercises if you’re experiencing setbacks rather than quitting completely.

The example of Helen, a wheelchair-bound senior who wished to walk up the aisle while attending church, is just one case where LivHOME has observed a dramatic improvement in quality of life while working to help senior adults increase their activity. Our case manager began by assessing Helen’s level of tolerance. She visited Helen’s church and measured the distance to the altar, then mapped out the same distance in the hallway of Helen’s apartment building. Over six weeks, Helen walked in the hallway, gradually increasing her distance and moving toward her goal of completing the entire distance. Having gained endurance and strength, Helen was ultimately able not only to walk the church aisle, but also to walk in other places such as the grocery store. Not only did she minimize her risk for falls, but she gained a measure of independence.

Like many other senior adults, Helen did achieve her exercise goals over time, encouraged by her newfound strength and confidence in her ability.

It’s never too late. The New Year may be just the opportunity needed to find that fresh start, one step at a time.