What causes falls in the home? One cause is the state of your home, such as slippery floors, loose carpet on the stairs, or poor lighting in a cluttered hallway. The other cause is an individual’s personal health and well-being. Weak legs, poor posture, fading eyesight, and side effects from your medications can all contribute to the likelihood of a fall.
The good news is that you can take steps to enhance your well-being and prevent falls.
“If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it” is true when it comes to muscle strength and balance. Regular exercise strengthens your muscles and improves your balance, thereby reducing your chances of falling. Better coordination and flexibility are also a bonus.
Gentle exercise programs such as yoga and Tai chi are popular with seniors. Even seated exercises enhance your health. The important thing is to get your body moving, at least several times a week.
Poor eyesight makes it difficult to see tripping hazards or to see dips and rises in the path ahead of you. Get your vision checked regularly, and make sure your prescription eyeglasses are up to date.
If you need to wear glasses, put them on even for short trips to the bathroom at night. Turn on the lights if you need to walk to the kitchen or bathroom during the night. Better lighting will help you judge depth and distance as you walk.
If your healthcare provider has recommended the use of a cane, walker, or rollator, make sure you use the mobility device around the house. Thinking that you don’t need your cane or walker “just this once” could lead to a fall. Keeping your mobility sometimes requires assistance, even if you don’t think you need it.
Ask your healthcare provider about the side effects of any medications or over-the-counter supplements that you are currently taking. Take note if any of them cause drowsiness, dizziness, or disorientation. These conditions may increase the risk of falling.
If your medications cause these side effects, your healthcare provider may recommend using a cane or walker for balance. They may also be able to switch you to a different medication with fewer side effects.
Exercise is important, even for aging seniors and those living with disabilities. Physical activity provides benefits for your body as well as your mind and emotions. The types of exercise you can do will depend largely on your physical strength and agility, but no matter your level of fitness, you can still exercise. As always, work with your health care provider to tailor your fitness program to meet your needs and ability.
One of the best exercise regimens for seniors and the disabled is swimming. Non-impact water aerobics and lap swims are easy on the joints but require the heart and lungs to work hard. You can easily tailor your workout to match your fitness level and range of motion.
Yoga and Pilates are low-impact and flexible enough to work for individuals of almost any ability level. Props such as foam blocks let you modify poses for a less intense workout. With all the different yoga and Pilates accessories available, the possibilities are endless. Work out with an exercise ball, stretch out on a yoga mat, strengthen your muscles with a resistance ring or Pilates band, and more.
Do you spend most of your time sitting down? You can still get your exercise. An exercise peddler gets your legs moving, similar to riding a bicycle. A chi swing machine is an even simpler form of exercise that you can do while lying down. Just rest your ankles on the padded footrests and let the machine do the work for you.
A pedal exerciser offers the convenience of exercising in the comfort of your own home while you read, listen to the news, or watch television. This non-impact form of aerobics is gentle on your body, which makes it ideal for seniors and rehabilitation patients.
Pedaling with your legs mimics the action of riding a bicycle but without the need for the level of balance needed to stay upright on a bike. To use the pedal exerciser, simply set it up in front of a chair and then start pedaling away. Adjust the intensity of your workout by tightening or loosening the tension knob for greater or less resistance.
Besides strengthening your legs, the pedal exerciser can also be used to work the muscles in your arms and upper body. Rowing with your arms instead of your legs gives you variety and works a greater number of muscles.
When pedaling with your arms, make sure to use proper posture by keeping your back straight. Improper use can strain your lower back or other muscles.
You can increase the difficulty of these exercises by adjusting the tension knob. Tighten the knob for more resistance and a harder workout. Loosen the knob for less resistance. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to adjust the tension. On some models, you may need to turn the knob clockwise to tighten the knob and increase resistance. Other models may be marked “high” and “low”; turn the knob to the appropriate level of resistance for your desired workout.
Start slowly and build up your exercise time and level of resistance gradually. Pushing your body beyond its limits can lead to excessive soreness or injury. Be patient while your muscles build endurance and strength over time. The key to a successful exercise program is to be consistent. Your doctor or health care professional can help you customize your exercise program to fit your needs and abilities.
The National Institute on Aging (NIH) recommends four types of exercise for seniors: endurance activities, strengthening exercises, stretching exercises, and balance exercises. All four types of exercise are important components of staying as active and independent as possible.
Cardiovascular exercise builds endurance by working the heart and circulatory system. Walking, swimming, and riding bike are three common examples of endurance activities. There are ways to modify these activities for your level of ability. For example, you can use a rollator or cane to provide support for walking (either indoors or outside), and you can use a peddle exerciser to simulate riding a bike while sitting in a chair.
Although pumping iron may no longer be your thing, you can still strengthen your muscles by following an at-home exercise routine. Weighted balls and coated dumbbells are two simple options for upper body conditioning. Increase the weight and number of repetitions gradually, following the advice of a trained medical or fitness professional.
Staying limber and flexible can prevent injuries and allow you to do more without straining your body. A yoga or Pilates mat provides a comfortable surface for stretching, if you are able to get down on the floor and back up again. Otherwise, there are many stretching exercises you can perform while sitting in a chair. Other helpful accessories include a Pilates band aids, which aids in both stretching and strengthening, and a balance ball, which aids in stretching and balance.
Improving and maintaining your balance is important for preventing falls. Standing on one leg, walking heel-to-toe across a room, leg raises, and hip extenders are just a few examples of balance exercises. Some of these exercises can be performed using a balance ball. Other exercises require no special equipment and can be done while you are cooking or watching television.
For more information on exercises for seniors, visit the NIH website.
Roll Mobility will now be offering new fitness and wellness products from OneTouch Massage. The new OneTouch Massage products include yoga and Pilates gear, meditation and relaxation aids, massage accessories, and resistance and balance equipment. These products are designed to promote a healthy lifestyle and overall wellbeing through relaxation, meditation, strengthening, and massage.
We are expanding our selection of products to make it easier for customers to adopt a holistic approach to rehabilitation, disability, and aging. Products such as the paraffin wax warmer offer relief for arthritis sufferers and others who experience chronic joint pain, muscle soreness, and dry skin. Yoga balls promote physical strengthening and rehabilitation. Other products focus on emotional and spiritual wellbeing, such as zafu pillows and meditation aids.
The new selection of OneTouch Massage fitness and wellness products includes the following: