Exercises that help elders stay steady on their feet may still offer protection, even if a senior does slip, according to a new study. Researchers from the University of Paris found that balance-enhancing exercise programs reduced an aging individual's risk of being injured during a fall by as much as 61 percent.
"Many of the risk factors for falls and fall-induced injuries are similar," write the study authors. "These factors are correctable by well-designed exercise programs, even in the very old and frail." One of the main ways exercise helps is by strengthening an individual's bones, as well as the muscles that protect them.
The definition of a well-designed exercise program for fall prevention varies in specifics, but typically includes a combination of aerobic and strength exercises, as well as movements designed to enhance flexibility and coordination, such as Tai Chi and yoga.
Falls present real danger to the elderly
The threat of an injury-inducing fall weighs heavily on the minds of many older adults and their caregivers—and with good reason.
One out of every three Americans aged 65 and older fall every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As many as 30 percent of these adults acquire injuries from these falls that inhibit their ability to live on their own and could result in a trip to the hospital.
While broken bones are a significant source of fall-induced disability among the aging population, tumbles are the primary driver of another major health concern for the elderly—traumatic brain injury (TBI). Sixty-one percent of the TBIs in adults 65 and over are caused by falls.
How balance training helps
Regular physical activity is one of the oft-cited ways to prevent falls in elderly people, and individuals of all ages.
But an exercise routine doesn't have to be complicated or time-consuming to be effective. Talk to your doctor and take a look at these resources to help you come up with a plan that best fits the lifestyle and needs of you and your loved one:
4 Balance-Enhancing Exercises for Seniors
At-Home Exercises to Help You Stay Strong and Mobile
A Skeptic's Guide to Yoga