The role of exercise in preventing falls among community dwelling older adults
Regular participation in an exercise program is not only integral to the maintenance of good health and functional independence in older adulthood, but also serves a vital role in reducing or preventing falls among community dwelling seniors. This is the conclusion that has been reached by researchers who have examined the 600 plus articles that have been published to investigate which fall prevention strategy works best.
The consensus that exercise serves as one of the best buys for fall prevention could not have come at a better time considering that the United States is on the brink of a longevity revolution. By 2030, an estimated 1 in every 5 Americans will be 65 years of age or older. With an aging population, an expected rise in the incidence of falls will also occur since 30% of adults in this age category will sustain a fall each year. It has been documented that a well-designed exercise program can prevent up to 42% of falls, which will not only improve the functional mobility of millions of aging americans but also stem the rising medical costs associated with fall related injuries.
Exercise programs designed to reduce fall risk should focus on improving both strength and balance, two of the most common and readily modifiable risk factors for falls. The Otago exercise program and Tai Chi Moving for better balance are two such programs that have had success in accomplishing these goals. Regardless of the program, balance activities should be tailored to the risk level of the older adult and include both static and dynamic tasks that are made progressively more challenging over the course of time. Strengthening exercises should also be made more difficult over time with increasingly heavier weights to allow for a greater stimulus for muscle growth. Researchers suggest a minimum of 50 hours of participation in an exercise program before improvements in fall incidence rates can be recognized.
If you or a loved one have a recent history of falls, exercise is highly recommended to reduce future risk. For more information regarding fall prevention programs and how you can start exercising, contact Physical Solutions.