According to the Center of Disease Control (www.cdc.gov ), one in every three individuals age 65 and older will fall. Falls among older adults can lead to physical injury and high rates of mortality. They are also very costly. The total cost of fall related injuries in the U.S. is to be as much as $54 Billion by 2020. (CDC, 2010) There are four main risk factors for falling: Environmental, Behavioral, Biological, and Socioeconomic. (Rose, 2010) The behavioral risk factors include multiple medication use, lack of exercise, inappropriate shoes and excess of alcohol consumption. As far as medication use, please contact your doctor if any of them are making you dizzy or sleepy. Make sure you wear supportive shoes that tie or Velcro and are easy to get on and off. Consume no more than one glass of beer or wine a day if you are a woman and two if you are male. But please check with your doctor if you are taking any medications that may interfere with alcohol. Lastly I would like to talk about exercise. It is the best preventative medicine out there! It can help with morbidity, flexibility, strength, stability and keep your heart and brain healthy. Studies prove that exercise is the best medicine.
In my next series for Fall Prevention, I am going to discuss progressions of exercises starting with core activation. These exercises will control your center of gravity thus reducing your risk of falls.
- Good posture – Start by standing next to a mirror and look at your posture. Is your ear in line with your shoulder? Or does it protrude forward? Is your shoulder in line with your hip? Is your hip in line with your knee? Is your knee over your ankle? I like to tell people to think of a string that is attached to the top of your head. Now imagine someone pulling it toward the sky. By making that connection, you are able to stand up nice and tall and have all of your bones and joints in a neutral position. Plus you look great standing up nice and tall.
- Core activation – Lay down on your back on a stable area with your knees bent. Put your hands on the lower part of your ribs. Take a deep breath into your belly and on your exhale pull your ribs towards your hips. This movement activates the core muscles of your torso; rectus abdominis, internal and external oblique and your tranversus abdominis. This is your nature’s weight belt and will keep your torso nice and strong and prevent back pain.
Stability ball – I would like to start using the stability ball now to help activate those core muscles. Use one that is appropriate to your height. If you are 69-75 inches tall, use a 65cm. If you are 65-68 inches tall, use a 55cm and if you are below 65 inches use a 45cm. You want to see that your hips and torso are at a 90 degree angle when you sit. Let’s take a seat on the ball. If you feel uncomfortable with this have a chair or something stable near you to balance yourself.
- One arm raise – With both feet on the floor and hands to your side, raise up one arm towards the ceiling, hold for 5 seconds and then back to starting position. Now repeat with the opposite arm. Repeat 30 times.
- Diagonal arm raise – With both feet on the floor and hands to your sides, raise one arm up on the side, lower and raise the opposing arm. Think of flying an airplane when you were a kid. Repeat 30 times.
- Lateral trunk rotation – Keeping your hips facing forward and hands on your legs, twist to the right looking over your shoulder. Come back to neutral position and then turn left. Repeat 15 times.
- Lateral weight shifts – While seated on a ball, feet on the floor and hands on your legs, move your weight from side to side. Repeat 30 times.
- Forward and backward weight shifts – While seated on a ball, feet on the floor and hands on your legs, move your weight back and forth. Repeat 30 times.
The above exercises will make you feel more comfortable on a stability ball and awaken your core muscles. Stay tuned next month for another post on fall prevention as I will provide more exercises you can do at home.
Take care and live actively.
Jan M. Ten Bruin
ACSM Certified Personal Trainer