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Elderly people 'staying at home for fear of falling' - Falls CAN and SHOULD be prevented with Exercise

Michelle Caines | 31 Oct 2012 @ 12:10

Strength Trainer for SeniorsAn article in the news today suggesting that a fear of falling is making many elderly people prisoners in their own homes, is very sad, and this does not need to be the case.  The article suprises me in that it does not mention anywhere the word 'exercise' - a proven factor towards fall and injury prevention.

Strength training has many benefits, including developing and strengthening the muscles, joints and bones, particularly important for the older population. With the correct guidance and encouragement from a qualified fitness professional, the elderly, like anybody else can use gym equipment to develop strength, muscular endurance, balance, flexibility, coordination and proprioception. All of the above will ensure less likelihood of sustaining an injury or fall as well as improve fitness generally and functionality for daily activities and quality of life.

Aging does not affect the muscles ability to get stronger with regular exercise. If we do not strength train, inevitably we will lose some muscle mass. Seniors that do strength train regularly can maintain their muscle mass, promote bone health and reduce the risk of chronic disease as well as reduce blood pressure, improve mental health and adding years to their life.

One study on 90-year-old women in a nursing home found that 12 weeks of strength training took the equivalent of 20 years off their thigh muscle age, resulting in improved walking and mobility.

The government guidelines for physical activity is 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week. This does not mean that you have to join a gym. It simply means get moving! Whether it be a brisk walk to the shops, carrying the shopping, housework, gardening. Home gym equipment such as a recumbent exercise bike is a great low impact exercise machine for older people and exercise classes can also be fun and interactive - a social gathering to look forward to each week perhaps. The exercises can be as simple as getting up from a chair, stepping up onto a step, using resistance bands, small hand and ankle weights and light dumbbells. The exercise does not have to be high intensity as long as it is programmed and pitched correctly for the audience.

It is never too late to start - in fact sedentary people may see the greatest gains within a few weeks. If you know an elderly person who needs help then help them! If you are an elderly person in need of some help, look for a local class or a Personal Trainer who can come to you. Many trainers also now run weekly sessions from residential homes. You don't want to be housebound for fear of the unknown if you are otherwise healthy.


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