Let’s talk about fall prevention. More than 1 in 3 Canadians ages 65 and older fall each year. It’s estimated that 50% of those who fall will suffer moderate to severe injuries that can permanently reduce their mobility and independence. In this post, Dr. Frank Baillie talks about the most common types of falls, plus physiotherapist Neenah Navasero demonstrates how to improve your balance and how to perform the “sit-to-stand” exercise to maximize your leg strength.
What is one of the most common and avoidable traumas?
“We see a lot of falls here at the Hamilton General which is the regional trauma centre. We’re seeing more in the older population than we used to see because a lot of them are on fixed incomes and they think they can do it themselves. They still feel pretty fit, but unfortunately sometimes a bit dizzy and they can fall.”
What can be done to lower the risk of falls?
“Many of them are falling off of ladders, so if only they would either not use a ladder themselves and get a professional, or if they are going to use a ladder, make sure it’s a good quality ladder and follow ladder safety including somebody spotting for them at the bottom of the ladder.”
How serious can these falls be?
“Obviously the individuals themselves get injured and they have a lot of pain. They can have very serious injuries up to and including death. More importantly, they are often left disabled. That’s a cost to them and their family, and obviously, the more people fall and injure themselves, the more the cost is to society.”
Preventing falls with strength and balance
Strength and balance are two physical components that are important to preventing falls. But you have to work to retain them: both strength and balance tend to deteriorate if you aren’t using them regularly.
How can you practice balancing to prevent falls? Follow these easy steps:
- Stand next to a counter top that is close to waist height
- Use the counter for support and keep your hands shoulder width apart
- Put your feet close together to make balancing more difficult
- Lift your hands and practice balancing. Keep them close to the counter in case you need support
- Make it more challenging by standing on one foot- but remember, keep your hands close to the counter in case you need it!
Standing without holding onto something can be quite challenging for some people. Make sure you are practicing your balance close to a sturdy surface so you are safe. This exercise can be done when you are at the kitchen counter doing dishes, or even when you are brushing your teeth.
Sit to Stand: The exercise all seniors should be doing
This sit-to-stand exercise is a great way to maintain and maximize the strength of the different muscles in your legs that help you stay upright. It’s so simple and quick you can even do it during the commercial break of your favourite TV show.
Watch Neenah Navasero, a physiotherapist at St. Peter’s Hospital, demonstrate the proper technique for this sit-to-stand exercise. She’ll demonstrate ways to adapt the exercise for different fitness levels. It’s important to make sure you are exercising safely.
How to adapt the sit-to-stand exercise:
- Beginners or people with low muscle tone should use a chair that has armrests and sits high off the ground.
- For a little challenge, do the same exercise without using the armrests.
- For even more challenge, use a chair that sits lower to the ground so your legs have to work harder to stand up out of the chair.* Talk your physiotherapist or healthcare provider about how many reps and sets you can manage and what level of activity is right for you.
If you’re not sure what level of this exercise is right for you, talk to your physiotherapist or another health care provider for advice.