I agree that not all “older adults” are the same, but at a certain age, falls tend to increase in frequency. Even some really “fit” older folks have falls. For that reason, I appreciate that people that are in the “older adult” category might be outliers as far as fitness levels, but they may still have a higher fall risk.
To be honest, I think that balance exercises are great, but moreso because you have to catch yourself after losing your balance. Just practicing the act of balancing alone isn’t enough. Almost everyone stumbles at some point. However, when I stumble, I have the strength to catch myself before I end up on the floor. In the rare case that a younger person does fall (from a minor stumble), they have stronger bones and more muscle mass to protect their bones.
Taking all of this into consideration, I think that basic strengthening exercises are very important to start with. These help us to achieve improvements in strength and muscle mass. I try to get almost every older adult to squat. This is a very “functional” exercise because it is something they have to do everyday. They will have to squat to use the restroom, get in/out of bed, or even sit down to eat.
From there, I will include any variety of exercises that will cause them to lose their balance. From what I have seen, it seems to be more important to recognize and correct a stumble, rather than avoiding any loss of balance at all. I’ve seen patients (in a rehabilitation setting) that have lost their balance and literally seem to have no perception of it. If you were not to intervene, they would hit the ground before they realized that they have lost their balance. Even though these folks might display good balance most of the time, all it takes is that one time and where they don’t have the ability to stop themselves from falling. Even with perfect balance, someone will eventually lose their balance because of medications, a trip over a rug, improper footwear, ice, or any number of environmental factors.
All clients should be taught to perform exercises/movements with the proper ROM for all joints. These are the foundation movements of the body and need to be performed or function will suffer.
Hip flexion, ab/adduction, extension, and circumduction (get clearance for hip replacement/injury), knee flexion/extension, ankle plantar flexion, dorsaflexion, inversion, eversion and limited circumduction are the basic movements of the lower body. Doing these while balancing on one foot also works stability amd proprioception. Similar motions are also done for the upper body. These movements are performed slowly and with a short pause at the end range of motion if possible and without putting the foot back on the floor if possible.
These movements can be performed anytime and almost anywhere. They are great for a quick bout of activity at work, performed as a morning ritual, or as part of a warm up for more strenuous activity.
The foundation movements are part of many of the CEC courses that I teach. Check out my website – www.hawaiifitnessacademy.com .
Great question and some great commentary! I’d like to agree with LaRue in focusing on safety first. This should not just be for our elderly clients, but ALL clients.
Often we get our client and they come to their appointment ready to work hard! Which is great, but remember to slow down and get form and function first. If we don’t have the right muscles firing, we are just training the compensatory ones and not recruiting the proper stabilizers and synergists.
Stay safe friends!