BY CATHERINE LOGAN, MSPT
A Fall Prevention Program
The right exercise program can reduce older adults’ risk of falling and help prevent potentially catastrophic injuries.
Falls can be serious at any age, often causing ligamentous sprains or injury to bones and soft tissue. In addition, the inevitable decrease in overall physical activity during the recovery period can lead to other unfavorable consequences. The temporary inactivity may be a minor setback for young people, but for seniors it can result in losses in muscle mass, endurance and functional range of motion. Thus falls can be disastrous for the senior population, possibly leading to long-term immobility and loss of independence, as well as increasing overall mortality risk. Many factors associated with an increased risk of falls–including lack of strength and balance, improper footwear, hazards in the home and vision disturbances–are considered preventable (Lemcke et al. 2004). To help prevent falls, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (www.aaos.org) recommends that seniors participate in an exercise program designed to improve strength, balance, agility and coordination. (Some recent research [Porter 2006] suggests that improved muscular power may also reduce the risk of falling by enabling older adults to move their limbs more quickly when they begin to lose their balance. Future studies should provide more information on the benefits and risks of specific types of power training.)
A WELL-ROUNDED PROGRAM
healthy young person–to trip over a throw rug, a toy on the floor or a curb when he or she is not paying close attention to the surroundings. The amount of damage caused by a fall can depend on one’s muscle mass, as well as the energy and angle of the impact. Muscle mass can act as a protective mechanism, or cushion, taking some of the impact during a fall. Since a decline in muscle mass often accompanies aging, older adults typically have less muscle tissue surrounding their joints. This is one reason that strength training exercise is so important for this population. A good sense of balance can help prevent a fall or reduce the severity of one that does occur–by enabling the person to diminish the speed of the fall, for example. Coordination and agility exercises serve to help clients adjust more readily to changing surface areas, slippery surfaces or unexpected obstacles in their path. Below is a suggested exercise program that incorporates strength, balance, agility and coordination. These exercises should be performed in addition to a client’s regular stretching and cardiovascular exercise routine.
3. bridge on stability ball (3 sets of 10
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