Did you know that each year nearly one-third of older adults experience a fall and that it’s the leading cause of injury deaths among older adults?
Aging by itself doesn’t make you fall. Often medical factors such as heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, and problems with circulation, the thyroid, or nervous system contribute to instability and affect balance. Certain medications and eye problems can sometimes cause dizziness and make you feel off balance, all of which can also cause a fall. Lack of exercise, tight muscles, and poor posture are other common factors leading to falls. In addition, bone strength and size peaks by age 30. After that, bones tend to become less dense or thinner, making them more fragile and prone to breaks. The good news is that regular physical activity is a great way to protect the bones, even if you’re older.
Falls can be devastating and change your life. They can lead to a loss of independence and disability. The good news is that it’s never too late to get more active. Being active can help bones become stronger and denser. Placing physical stress on bones during exercise actually stimulates the growth of new bone tissue. Regular exercise is also a great way to improve balance and flexibility, making you more stable on your feet. To strengthen bones, you need to take part in activities that force you to work against gravity by carrying your body’s weight. These include exercises like walking, running, stair climbing, and dancing. In addition to these weight bearing exercises, resistance training or weight lifting is necessary to add to your exercise routine in order to gain the fullest benefit. We’re not talking about you needing to become a body builder pumping serious iron — using light weights or your own body weight for push-ups, squats, and lunges can do the trick. Generally, the higher impact activities, such as running or weight lifting, have a more prominent effect on the bones than lower impact exercises like walking. Additionally, only the bones that bear the load of the exercise will benefit. For instance, running protects the bones in the hips and legs, but not the arms. Therefore, a well-rounded strength training plan provides the fullest benefit. Furthermore, exercises that improve balance can have a positive effect on your posture and help prevent a fall or reduce the severity of one that does occur. Keep in mind that exercises like swimming and biking are great forms of physical activity, but they aren’t weight bearing and won’t build bone. However, they are great additions to your regular exercise routine and should be enjoyed.
To lead an active lifestyle aim to:
- Minimize the amount of time you spend sitting or being sedentary
- Schedule exercise time into every day
- Get 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week (breaking up the time into 10 minute sessions several times a day is just as effective)
- Incorporate strength training and weight bearing exercises into your daily physical activity routine
If you have an existing medical condition, or are just starting an exercise program, be sure to speak with your doctor prior to beginning to make sure the program you choose is designed with your health and wellness in mind.