During the pandemic, older adults (age > 65 years old) tend to stay at home to avoid being exposed to potential virus. This, in turn, limits the opportunity for older adults to get out of their house and exercise. The lack of adequate daily exercise may have an impact on mobility and balance, consequently, increases the risks of falling.
Hip fractures are one of the common consequences after a fall. This is noteworthy to the public as literature shows that there is a 5-8 times increased risk of all-cause mortality during the first 3-months after older adults who has had hip fracture.
Exercise has shown to be an effective strategy to reduce the number of falls in older adults by about 23%. Exercise program which primarily consists of balance and strength training are recommended. In the following sections, we will show you 3 balance exercises which are common in a fall prevention exercise program.
1) Heel to Toe Walking (Forward & Backward)
For this exercise, use an open wall or table for support. Stand up tall, place one hand on open wall, look straight ahead and place heel in front of toe to form a straight line. Take 10 heel to toe steps forward, turn around, switch hands, take another 10 heel to toe steps to return to the starting point. Repeat this exercise twice. To progress, individuals can increase the number of steps, walk without using the wall for support, or walking backward in heel to toe.
2) Figure-8 Walking
For this exercise, walk in a figure-8 pattern at regular pace. Repeat the exercise twice. To progress, individuals can increase the walking time. This exercise is beneficial for older adults when there is a need of sudden change of directions, as well as avoiding obstacles.
3) Single Leg Stand
For this exercise, use a table or chair for support, stand up tall besides a table or chair, place one hand on it. Stand on one leg while looking straight ahead. Hold that position for 10 seconds, take a brief break, then repeat the exercise by standing on the opposite leg. Repeat the whole exercise twice. To progress, individuals can increase standing time and repetitions, stand without using the table or chair for support, or stand with eyes closed. Other similar exercises are tandem stand and standing with feet together.
To be effective, the exercise program needs to be at least 50 hours, with 2 to 3 sessions per week. Further, it is important to note that individuals who are new to exercise or individuals who have high risk of falling, should exercise under supervision, as exercising alone may result in further falls.
C.E.S. is currently offering both onsite and virtual services for fall prevention. Older adults who are interested in this service can contact our clinic at (905)-771-8882.
Campbell AJ, Robertson MC for the New Zealand Accident Compensation Corporation. Otago Exercise Programme to prevent falls in older adults. 2003:https://hfwcny.org/wp-content/uploads/Otago_Exercise_Programme-Revised.pdf
Haentjens, P., Magaziner, J., Colón-Emeric, C. S., Vanderschueren, D., Milisen, K., Velkeniers, B., & Boonen, S. (2010). Meta-analysis: excess mortality after hip fracture among older women and men. Annals of internal medicine, 152(6), 380-390.
Public Health England. Falls and fracture consensus statement. Public Health England, 2017: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/586382/falls_and_fractures_consensus_statement.pdf
Sherrington C, Fairhall NJ, Wallbank GK, Tiedemann A, Michaleff ZA, Howard K, Clemson et al. Exercise for preventing falls in older people living in the community. (Cochrane Review) Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2019; (1): CD012424 (https://www.cochrane.org/CD012424/MUSKINJ_exercise-preventing-falls-older-people-living-community)